Read A Brief Guide to the Great Equations: The Hunt for Cosmic Beauty in Numbers by Robert P. Crease Online


Here are the stories of the ten most popular equations of all time as voted for by readers of "Physics World", including - accessibly described here for the first time - the favourite equation of all, Euler's equation. Each is an equation that captures with beautiful simplicity what can only be described clumsily in words. Euler's equation [eip + 1 = 0] was described by reHere are the stories of the ten most popular equations of all time as voted for by readers of "Physics World", including - accessibly described here for the first time - the favourite equation of all, Euler's equation. Each is an equation that captures with beautiful simplicity what can only be described clumsily in words. Euler's equation [eip + 1 = 0] was described by respondents as 'the most profound mathematic statement ever written', 'uncanny and sublime', 'filled with cosmic beauty' and 'mind-blowing'. Collectively these equations also amount to the world's most concise and reliable body of knowledge. Many scientists and those with a mathematical bent have a soft spot for equations. This book explains both why these ten equations are so beautiful and significant, and the human stories behind them....

Title : A Brief Guide to the Great Equations: The Hunt for Cosmic Beauty in Numbers
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781845292812
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 313 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Brief Guide to the Great Equations: The Hunt for Cosmic Beauty in Numbers Reviews

  • Benjaminxjackson
    2019-01-13 13:28

    The Great Equations is a science and mathematics book for popular readers, which is its strength and its weakness. The strength is that the text is accessible to just about any reader with some smattering of science and mathematics in their schooling. The weakness is that sometimes I found it a little too basic and too quick to gloss over details and proofs for equations.One of the interesting things is how the book demonstrates the way science progresses in fits and starts. It also shows how important collaboration and communication are to scientific discoveries. The other thread of the book that I enjoyed is its commitment that science is something that everyone should know something about -- the chapter on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy, is entitled "The Scientific equivalent of Shakespeare." He thinks we would all have better lives if we treated some basic scientific knowledge like we would knowing about Shakespear. Crease is not shy to deride things like astrology.Crease also acknowldges his debt to the "Two Cultures" concept first proposed by C.P. Snow that says knowledge is divided into technical and cultural knowledge essentially. One of the most interesting chapters is the interlude that discusses the humanities and the science. "For only when the humanities couple their inquiries into human dimensions and possibilities with an awareness of what science has disclosed of the dimensions and possibilities of the world will the humanities most effectively be able to provide answers to the questions of what we know, should do, and can hope for."I enjoyed the chapters on quantum mechanics becaus ethey explained things in a way that helped me make sense of things friends of mine who are scientists and mathematicians have explained to me in other ways. One of the things missing from this book, as another reviewer pointed out, is the quadratic equation. I also would have liked to see mote mathematical proofs in the book. I think Crease missed a chance to make popular readers more comfortable with equations beyondd just holding them up as something to be admired. I also would have liked to see a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem associated with the diagram associated with the U.S. President James A. Garfield used to invent a proof. I don't think enough information is given int he book to recreate the proof myself, though I may need to try again.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of science, humanities and social science people, and educators who might draw some ideas on how to bring science and math to a wider audience.

  • King Ævil
    2019-01-02 14:35

    Excellent presentation of the history behind ten of the most famous equations in science. I would have liked more technical detail. I can see glossing over the derivation of a physical law involving tensor calculus, but Pythagoras's own proof of his famous theorem should be within the grasp of this book's audience.

  • Jun Wen
    2019-01-10 09:25

    Reading this book as a chemical engineer, I probably had an easier time than most, being already familiar with the laws of motion, gravity and thermodynamics.Even then, it was not a book that could be breezed through easily, despite its short length. This was especially so towards the end of the book as it moved away from classical physics, and in the final two chapters I felt severely out of my depth. Its difficulty notwithstanding, this is a well written book that summarizes the progress of humankind's understanding of the world through the stories of prominent equations. One can gloss over the technical aspects and still be able to walk away with a good understanding of the journey that was undertaken to get to where we are today. It provides a fresh perspective where progress is not measured in personal terms as we are used to, but in much more meaningful terms as an entire species, with each individual's contribution adding to the entire species' understanding. This alone makes the book worth reading.Alternatively one can pay attention to the scientific and mathematical aspects of the book, and attempt to follow the train of thought of our eminent scientists, so as to come to their conclusions. This will require a lot of hard work, but the book has made it easier by not omitting the important technical terms and derivation, as well as providing landmark concepts which can be easily Google-d for should one desire more information. At the end of such a reading one will be enriched for having thought through all the concepts himself instead of simply having accepted something handed down to him.Whichever way the reader decides to explore this book, he will need determination to brave on in the face of unfamiliar symbols and equations, but in the end he will walk away with valuable knowledge.

  • TheIron Paw
    2019-01-02 09:15

    An enlightening read for those of interested in mathematics but with limited knowledge. This book is mostly history and philosophy but with a modest amount of math that you can either work through or half bleep over without affecting the author's message too much. More difficult to deal with are some of the concepts that don't fit my day to day understanding of reality. One of the interesting concepts brought forth in the discussion of quantum mechanics is the "anschaulicht" - the property of a "thing" to be visualizable by human mind. I'm also reading a book "Inside of a Dog" that talks of the "umvwelt" of dogs - their subjective view of reality that differs from ours largely because of their different sensation of reality (i.e. the colorful world of smells). The difficulties of understanding the quantum universe and of understanding dogs are quite parallel. Now if only my dog would give me the equation...Overall an enjoyable book, but not one to be read quickly (or when your wife has a list of chores.)

  • Augusto
    2019-01-14 14:37

    Livro fraco escrito num tom pra lá de "deslumbrado". Um interlúdio cientificista que meio que espezinha as ciências sociais, em especial a história, beira o mau gosto e só piorou as coisas.

  • Martin
    2019-01-09 09:45

    This book helped me appreciate a lot of the real life behind the big equations that he talks about. It was good in telling parts of the biographies of the people involved in them and this was enriching to read. His principle is that just having an objective understanding of the equations misses out a lot of important lessons, and things to reflect on, we can learn from the development of those equations. He does this well.Generally the equations are described appropriately, since the book is not teaching how to use the equationsI think there were quite a few small errors in the English of the copy I read which made it difficult to read sometimes because you have to keep jumping back to make sense of what you're reading - and this ruins your flow. Another unpleasant part of the book is the way he tries to cram so much into many sentences, meaning he has these huge sentences that are difficult to follow until you get into his rhythm. The book often seemed verbose. This strongly put me off the book in the first couple of chapters, but I am very happy I persevered because some of his musings are well organised and very thoughtful.Throwing science out to the general public could be seen as a process of simplification, but this book really focusses on how the implications of things in scientific development are complicated and there is a lot we can learn philosophically.I loved that he thought about these things, that I got a glimpse into the world where these equations were being developed and that the author respected the view that there was a lot that non-experts could gain from reading about this esoteric knowledge.

  • Robert B
    2019-01-13 12:29

    Explores 10 famous equations: the Pythagorean theorem; Newton’s second law of motion; Newton’s law of universal gravitation; Euler’s equation; the second law of thermodynamics; Maxwell’s equations; E = mc2; Einstein’s equation for general relativity; Schrödinger’s equation; and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Crease wants to show how each equation arose from dissatisfactions with the way the world was explained and to capture the wonder associated with their discoveries. In one or two cases – Newton’s second law of motion, in particular – he does a good job and the contrast between our previous understanding and that uncovered by the new equation is made exciting and clear. But in other cases, particularly the equations that arose in the 20th century, Crease does less well in explaining the equations in a clear but not overly simplistic manner. Unfortunately, each equation deserves a book – or two – of its own, and it may be too much to expect any author to boil down these equations into short chapters.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-01-04 13:39

    To paraphrase Mr T, I pity the fool who doesn’t see the beauty of mathematics inherent in the world around us. As a teacher, I feel rather complicit at times in robbing children of the joy of mathematics. The systemic, industrial tone of education does not often lend itself well to the investigation and discovery that should be the cornerstone of maths; I find this particularly true in the UK, where standardized tests and levels are the order of the day. There are times when I am conflicted about how to cover subject matter. I have to find a balance between a breakneck schedule and a desire to achieve the comprehension that only comes with time and careful practice, strive to find the equilibrium between exploring interesting lines of inquiry and curtailing those lines in order to teach what’s on the test. I hope that as I become more experienced finding this balance becomes smoother. For now, though, it’s a struggle.Because the secret that everyone learns as a child and then has beaten out of them by the endless grind of daily mathematics lessons is this: mathematics is not numbers. It is not arithmetic.There, I said it.I gave my students a test today on our statistics unit, which involved data collection: designing surveys, selecting sampling methods and sample sizes, etc. As they worked through the test, a few questioned its connection to mathematics. "This is words!" they protested, as if I were somehow an imposter trying to sneak extra English content into their day. Somewhere along the line—I don’t know precisely where—they developed this notion that mathematics is solely about manipulating numbers.Really, though, mathematics is about relationships between things. Mathematics is a process for understanding the world, as well as understanding theoretical constructs that, while not directly observable in the real world, can still have useful and fascinating properties. Math can be numbers, but it’s also truth, in one of the most fundamental ways possible.This is what Robert P. Crease attempts to communicate in A Brief Guide to the Great Equations. He foregrounds each equation and carefully explains how it became a part of the great canon of mathematics. He also explains why the result is so exciting, not just to mathematicians but to the population at large. I’m pretty enthusiastic about all this crazy math stuff, but Crease manages to stoke even my considerable flames of fanaticism and set my heart racing. The way he breathlessly extols the beauty and utility of Maxwell’s equations or Einstein’s relativity … it’s like a BBC Four documentary in paper form.When it comes to books on popular mathematics, I always try to anticipate how a layperson would receive the book. As a mathematician, I don’t have a problem following the equations and explanations; it comes naturally. It still staggers me how some people are able to understand the intense nuances of some of the higher-level mathematics involved in quantum mechanics and relativity; I’m somewhat reassured by Crease’s claims that physicists often rejected new developments that required them to learn a lot of complicated new math. Yet I still know what Crease means when he carelessly bandies around certain terminology, expecting his reader to keep up to speed based on a high school education alone.As far as pop math goes, A Brief Guide to the Great Equations is not the most friendly book. I’d probably hesitate to recommend it to casual readers, preferring maybe Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. For someone very interested in the history and philosophy of science, however, this book would appeal even if one’s math knowledge isn’t quite up to snuff. Crease recounts without fail some of the more interesting scuffles and disagreements among famous mathematicians and scientists; he also carefully lays out his own views on what constitutes a scientific revolution, and the role that developments of equations can have in revolutions.It’s easy enough to follow the history and soak up the spectacle without following the math. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t read this unless you’ve studied math in university. If anything, Crease hopefully sheds light on how and why people can find math such an interesting occupation. By reading these stories of how Maxwell and Einstein and Schrödinger dedicated years of their lives to these problems, one gets the sense that the problems are more interesting and worthwhile than the equations themselves indicate. Crease explains how the problems consumed and intrigued these brilliant minds in such a way that, even if one doesn’t understand the nature of the problem—or its resolution—itself, one can still appreciate the passion and dedication involved.Such passion and dedication are more universal than even the mathematics that unites the great thinkers featured in this book. One need not like math to be good at it or to succeed at it in school or in life. One need only appreciate its versatility, utility, and beauty. Crease tries and succeeds admirably in showcasing such attributes through the equations and history that he includes here.Math is beautiful. You just need to open your mind, cast aside the "but I just don’t have the brain for it", and embrace the wonderful freedom of being able to figure out how the world works.

    2019-01-12 13:34

    This book started out at a painfully slow pace and I almost chucked it but, luckily, persevered. It got better with Sir Isaac and the sections on relativity and quantum physics were excellent. The author showed the struggles involved in arriving at the equations, the competing schools of thought, the personalities and egos. I liked his extensive use of direct quotes and explanatory footnotes; yes, the footnotes are good reading, too. Would have liked to see some derivations; that would've earned the fifth star.

  • Andre Henrique de Siqueira
    2018-12-17 13:40

    A busca do sentido das equações trás contribuições efetivas para o entendimento da forma como representamos a realidade. Robert Crease descreve com entusiasmo a história e o significado de algumas das mais importantes equações da moderna ciência. Uma leitura imperdível para quem se interessa pelo tema.

  • Jake Losh
    2019-01-15 16:43

    It was ok. It’s a historiography of science as told through some important equations. Not as interesting as I’d hoped. Suitable for a bright high school student interested in math and physics. I enjoyed the vignettes on the Pythagorean theorem and Euler’s Equation (e^i*pi + 1 = 0) but the rest was too physics heavy for my taste).

  • Upom
    2018-12-23 11:19

    So often our culture forgets science and in our march to progress. Crease even noted that Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present barely mentions science, although mentioning almost every other aspect of a forgotten American history. Sadly, Crease also mentioned a simple rule of thumb publishers use for math in a book: for every math equation added to a popular book for science and readers, the sales of books drop by half. It's for sad reasons like these that I feel Crease is doing a great service in trying to make math mathematical equations as compulsory to know as Shakespeare. The book's explanation of equations is pretty standard for a popular math and science book, though his history seemed to be a bit more comprehensive and insightful than most books I've read. Where this book really shines are the interludes that conclude every chapter. Crease's training as a philosopher shines here as he reflects on the nature of science both as a field of endeavor and its part in the greater society. They are extremely well thought out, and fairly original in their considerations. These interludes alone would have made for a compelling book. The only complaint might have been was the mathematics in the book might have been a little rushed in explanation for non-technical readers. Still, if you have a light background in mathematics, this is a great book for learning and better understanding some of civilization's most quintessential equations.

  • Jerad Acosta
    2018-12-27 17:41

    Fun, quick, interesting read that gives you an appreciation for the history of a subject so many people fear - and gives you some great cocktail party stories to share about equations everyone knows about.If you enjoy historical anecdotes of why things are the way they are, or how something was discovered then you will devour this book.If you respect math and history, you will appreciate these stories - however no talent in either field is required.This is a great read. The chapters are self contained so you can jump around or just dip in for a quick 30 min chapter without concern for what happened last - though I really enjoyed reading it from front to back which gave me a compounded appreciation for the evolution of equations and questions over time.The author does a great job of making these accomplishments seem more attainable and the achievers seem more practical - while of course still maintaining the brilliance of each character, which should be implicit by the nature of the matter.

  • Max
    2018-12-31 10:27

    The Great Equations is a great book that explains everything you will ever need to know about maths history and the way it has become the way it is today. The Great Equations starts from the first equation being 1+1=2 and ends explaining The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Along the way we see Menos' paradox and how Pythagoras had nothing to do with the creation of the Pythagorean theorem (it was invented possibly a thousand years before Pythagoras was born in India). The book explains how equations came about and why there were people looking for that equation at the time, and how it was then put into practical use in a very simple and interesting way.I give The Great Equations three stars because though it was a good book, it was only a good book compared to other math related books. But if you're curious about the world i feel its safe to say this book explains it pretty well.

  • Bogdan Gavriliuc
    2018-12-22 17:38

    This book was not what I thought it was. I wanted more explanation on the equationsThat being said, I am happy I caught this and read it. The history behind the development of each discovery is quite fascinating. The struggles that each scientist goes through is usually so under-exposed.But that's all it is. It writes the equation for you, tells you how it came about, provides minimal math (I really wish there were more. But I know just find a text book. Still as a reader I wouldn't be turned down by this), and a myriad of quotes and passages from famous scientists.If you're into the history of science I recommend it.

  • Garrett Mccutcheon
    2019-01-03 12:32

    A fun overview of a handful of important mathematical equations. While the author doesn't go into much depth about the meaning of each equation, he does go into detail about the impact of the equation and why it was important. Any book on this type of subject is going to miss equations that some would believe are important while including some that everyone may not agree should be included; however, Crease does a satisfactory job of justifying why each equation was included. Recommended for anyone who has enough interest in mathematics and physical science to be curious, but those with strong math or science backgrounds can skip this read, as it covers no new ground.

  • Claudio Saavedra
    2019-01-12 17:20

    Interesting journey through not only wonderful equations, but also through what it takes for a significant contribution to science to take form. Many times we look at theorems and laws and just see their scientific meaning but ignore all the hard work, deception, and effort that people have put into them before they get to mean something. This book shows the human side of science and how it influences the direction that science takes. Recommended for anyone interested on a bit of history of physics and maths.

  • Dan Cohen
    2018-12-29 09:40

    It's a while since I read this book so this review is from hazy memory. I thought the book was good but it didn't stay long in my memory, which is not a good sign. The theme of equations means that the books covers both mathematical and scientific subjects and the difference between mathematical and scientific equations isn't really discussed or made clear. The sub-title "The hunt for cosmic beauty in numbers" suggests a more mathematical book, but most of the equations are scientific and hence aren't really described in that way.

  • Solrax
    2019-01-15 09:38

    This is a great book for anyone interested in math or science.The explanations behind the chosen equations were very clear and helped me to understand both their meaning and significance.I really enjoyed how the author emphasized that these equations didn't pop onto the page out of nowhere, but were the result of the intellectual struggle of human beings who felt confusion, frustration and joy in attempting to understand and explain physical and mathematical phenomenon.One of the best general math/science books I've read.

  • Steffi
    2019-01-07 15:17

    I'm surprised at how many people complained that this book requires math and physics knowledge. This isn't a math book at all - it's about history. The chapter on Euler is good, because the math is explicit. Otherwise, the purpose of this book is not to explain the math - which would have required many more technical explanations - but to describe the history surrounding the equations. The philosophical discussions are sloppy. I still don't understand E=mc^2.

  • Mason Parkes
    2019-01-16 14:25

    An interesting book. It was insightful to get a historical background to the equations that define science, but some of the authors opinions about what these equations meant didn't seem to connect and I personally did not welcome them. The author biography introduces him as the head of the philosophy department of stony brook so I guess I must expect him to philosophize a bit but I think I would have liked the book better without that.

  • Mscout
    2018-12-31 11:16

    Really intelligent and engaging study of the path to some of the scientific world's most important equations. Crease tells the story not just of the equations and what they mean and do, but also the (sometimes torturous) journey to their discoveries. There is plenty for the reader interested in learning something of the personalities of the discoverers as well. More for the advanced layman, than a general audience; you don't have to understand quantum physics to enjoy the book, but it helps.

  • Raunaq Ahmed
    2018-12-16 10:36

    Keeping in mind that Robert Crease is not a mathematician or a physicist, I think he has done a good job writing this book. He starts by illustrating the nature of proof(mathematics) and physical law(physics) and shows really well how these notions developed historically. He keeps in mind the distinction between math and physics throughout the book. I think this is a good popular science book for the non-experts entering the field of theoretical physics.

  • ofits
    2018-12-24 16:16

    This book lacks both the rigor of a hard scientific treatise and the appeal of a popular science book, leaving it in a limbo where it is both difficult to read and not particularly enlightening. As a fan of books like A Short History of Nearly Everything and Michio Kaku's works, it should've been right up my alley. Unfortunately it just didn't grab me and I brute forced the last 85% of it so I could move on to other things.

  • Sean Hoade
    2018-12-25 14:17

    A deeply human exploration of major equations in mathematics and physics. By "deeply human," I mean it shows how these great ideas came to be -- it's not anywhere nearly as cut-and-dried as one might thing. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history and philosophy of mathematics and science.

  • Kai Pak
    2018-12-17 13:40

    A fine look at some of greatest equations in (mostly) physics and mathematics. For a book about equations, it doesn't get too mathematically rigorous, so the untrained can certainly enjoy it and find beauty in these masterpieces of human thought.

  • Ron
    2018-12-21 13:19

    Even for a non-math person such as myself, this was a very interesting book. Crease is a good writer and brings a wide range of expertise to the topic making it understandable for those of us whose math is just basic. I recommend it highly.

  • Bill Yates
    2018-12-18 13:42

    This book was good to read, and I enjoyed it. The historical development of the great equations was very well presented. My only criticism is that some of the author's commentary was poorly composed, and I found my mind wandering.

  • Pierre Lauzon
    2019-01-04 09:23

    As someone without a deep science background, the book was very interesting to me. It provided linkages to great scientific and mathematical insights through history.I listened to it via audiobook, and believe a reader would be better served by using a text version.A recommended read.

  • Moezur
    2018-12-31 12:15

    One definitely needs a background in Math to keep up. While some parts were very entertaining, with regards to the history of equations, other parts that broke down the composition of the formula's themselves really made the book difficult to follow.