An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author’s love of mathematics, if not the secrets of calculus itself.

INFINITE POWERS

HOW CALCULUS REVEALS THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE

A complex attempt to render calculus accessible.

Strogatz (Applied Mathematics/Cornell Univ.; The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, 2013, etc.) emphasizes that “calculus is an imaginary realm of symbols and logic” that “lets us peer into the future and predict the unknown. That’s what makes it such a powerful tool for science and technology.” It works by breaking problems down into tiny parts—infinitely tiny—and then putting them back together. Breaking down is the work of differential calculus; putting together requires integral calculus. Early civilizations, including the Babylonians, Greeks, and Chinese, had no trouble measuring anything straight, including complex structures such as the icosahedron, but curves and movement caused problems. Thus, finding the area of a circle by converting it into a 10-sided polygon and measuring the polygon’s area yields a fair approximation. A 100-sided polygon gave a more accurate result. Perfection required a polygon with an infinite number of infinitely small sides, but dealing with infinity was particularly tricky. Invented in its modern version by Newton and Leibniz in the late 17th century, calculus solved the problem. Readers who pay close attention to Strogatz’s analogies, generously supplied with graphs and illustrations, may or may not see the light, but all will enjoy the long final section, which eschews education in favor of a history of modern science, which turns out to be a direct consequence of this mathematics. The best introduction to calculus remains a textbook—Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P. Thompson—published in 1910 and, amazingly, still in print. Readers who dip into Thompson will understand Strogatz’s enthusiasm. His own explanations will enlighten those with some memory of high school calculus, but innumerate readers are likely to remain mystified.

An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author’s love of mathematics, if not the secrets of calculus itself.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-87998-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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