Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe (Hardcover)
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“Marvelous . . . an array of witty and astonishing stories . . . to illuminate how calculus has helped bring into being our contemporary world.”—The Washington Post
From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus – how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.
Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.
Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down‑to‑earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number—infinity—to tackle real‑world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.
Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalized and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes “backwards” sometimes; how to make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn’t miss the moon; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.
As Strogatz proves, calculus is truly the language of the universe. By unveiling the principles of that language, Infinite Powers makes us marvel at the world anew.
About the Author
STEVEN STROGATZ is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for the New York Times and The New Yorker and has been a frequent guest on Radiolab and Science Friday. He is the author of Sync and The Joy of x. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
A New York Times Bestseller
Featured on NPR's Science Friday
Shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize
Named one of 10 Best Books to Read this Spring by Amazon's Chris Schluep
“Marvelous . . . an array of witty and astonishing stories . . . to illuminate how calculus has helped bring into being our contemporary world and so many of the instruments whose role we now blithely assume.”
—The Washington Post
“Fortunately, we live in an era when a top mathematician can write a book about calculus that is accessible to the mathematically challenged...it is the historical detail in the book that not only allows me to follow the math by taking me through how it was discovered, but also sticks in my mind. [Strogatz] makes me want to get out a textbook and start studying calculus.”
“Wonderful . . . bringing the insights of calculus—among the most important of all developments in the history of mathematics—to everyone.”
—Brian Greene, on Twitter
“I've never read a clearer explanation of calculus or the significant powers we gained by harnessing infinity. Michael and I highly recommend it!”
—Vsauce, on Twitter
“Fascinating anecdotes abound in Infinite Powers . . . Strogatz uses the right amount of technical detail to convey complex concepts with clarity . . . evocatively conveys how calculus illuminates the patterns of the Universe, large and small.”
“A brilliant, appealing explanation of how calculus works and why it makes our lives so much better.”
—Amazon's Chris Schluep, for the Saturday Evening Post
“Strogatz does a great job of explaining a difficult subject . . . he lays out the case that calculus is fundamental to the way we live today . . . a solid choice for readers who want to know what calculus is all about, and for teachers who wish to improve their presentation.”
“An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author’s love of mathematics.”
“Far-ranging survey . . . clear and accessible . . . Strogatz successfully illuminates a notoriously complex topic and this work should enhance appreciation for the history behind its innovations."
“A tale of how mathematics has changed all of our lives… Strogatz is a terrific storyteller and patient teacher…. By bringing infinity down to earth… and coupling those stories with some periodic excursions back out to the stars, Infinite Powers does a marvelous job of bringing calculus to life.”
—Dan Rockmore, LitHub
“Are you one of those people who always said you’d someday learn calculus? Well, someday is here, thanks to Steven Strogatz’s wide-ranging, humane, thoroughly readable take on one of the greatest ideas our species has ever produced.”
—Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
“This is a glorious book. Steven Strogatz manages to unmask the true hidden wonder and delightful simplicity of calculus. Infinite Powers is a master class in accessible math writing and a perfect read for anyone who feels like they never quite understood what all the fuss was about. It had me leaping for joy.”
—Hannah Fry, author of Hello World
“If calculus is the language of the universe, then Steven Strogatz is its Homer. With verve, insight, and simplicity, he explains the deep ideas underlying one of humankind’s greatest intellectual achievements. Infinite Powers is an incalculable pleasure.”
—Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
“Warning: this book is dangerous. It will make you love mathematics. Even more, there is a nonzero risk it will turn you into a mathematician.”
—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
“In this tour de force, Steve Strogatz shares his love as well as his deep understanding of calculus and mathematics more generally. An elegant and ebullient book, Infinite Powers speaks to everyone, reminding us why mathematics matters in a practical sense, while all the time highlighting the cleverness and especially the beauty involved.”
—Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Physics, Harvard University, author of Warped Passages and Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs
“This could be the most fascinating book I have ever read. If you have even the slightest curiosity about math and its role in this world, I implore you to read this amazing book. Every teacher, every student, and every citizen will be better for it.”
—Jo Boaler, author of Mathematical Mindsets, professor of mathematics education, Stanford University, and co-founder of youcubed.org
“Steven Strogatz is a world class mathematician and a world class science writer. With a light touch and razor-sharp clarity, he brilliantly filters his deep knowledge of calculus into an engaging epic that tells the remarkable story of a mathematical breakthrough that changed the world—and continues to do so.”
—Alex Bellos, author of Here’s Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math
“The world is a big thing made of an infinite number of infinitely small things. That's the lesson of calculus, the most powerful mathematical technique ever invented. In this engaging book, Steven Strogatz illuminates the importance of calculus and explains its mysteries as only he can.”
—Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture
“Reading Infinite Powers, I was reminded why Steve Strogatz is, at present, the best mathematician among writers and the best writer among mathematicians.”
—William Dunham, Bryn Mawr College, author of Journey Through Genius and The Calculus Gallery
“Infinite Powers is simple, lucid, amusing, informative, and a pleasure to read. If you want to know where calculus came from, how it works, what it’s good for, and where it’s going next, this is the book for you.”
—Professor Ian Stewart, author of Significant Figures
“A highly readable account of calculus and its modern applications—all done with the human touch.”
—Dr. David Acheson, author of The Calculus Story