The Joy of x
A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity
By Steven Strogatz
(Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547517650, 336pp.)
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, showing how math intersects with philosophy, science, art, business, current events, and everyday life, by an acclaimed science communicator and regular contributor to the New York Times.
Steven Strogatz is a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he blogs about math for the New York Times and been a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s RadioLab. In 2007 he received the Communications Award, a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public. He lives in Ithaca, New York with his wife and two daughters.
"A delightful exploration of the beauty and fun of mathematics, in the best tradition of Lewis Carroll, George Gamow, and Martin Gardner. The Joy of x will entertain you, amaze you, and make you smarter."
— Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Language Instinct
"Steven Strogatz should do for math what Julia Child did for cookery. He shows that this stuff really matters, and he shows that it can nourish us."
— James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood and Chaos
"This joyous book will remind you just how beautiful and mesmerizing math can be. Steve Strogatz is the teacher we all wish we had."
— Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein
"I loved this beautiful book from the first page. With his unique ingenuity and affable charm, Strogatz disassembles mathematics as a subject, both feared and revered, and reassembles it as a world, both accessible and magical. The Joy of x is, well, a joy."
— Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Barnard College, Columbia University, and author of How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines
"Amazingly, mathematicians can see patterns in the universe that the rest of us are usually blind to. With clarity and dry wit, The Joy of x opens a window onto this hidden world with its landscapes of beauty and wonder."
— Alan Alda
"This book is, simply put, fantastic. It introduces the reader to the underlying concepts of mathematics — presenting reasons for its unfamiliar language and explaining conceptual frameworks that do in fact make understanding complex problems easier. In a world where mathematics is essential but, largely, poorly understood, Steve Strogatz's teaching skills and deft writing style are an important contribution."
— Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science, Harvard University, and author of Warped Passages and Knocking on Heaven's Door
"Strogatz has discovered a magical function that transforms 'math' into 'joy,' page after wonderful page. He takes everything that every mystified you about math and makes it better than clear — he makes it wondrous, delicious, and amazing."
— Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
"Strogatz may be the only person alive with the skill to pied piper me into the murky abyss of set theory. I literally learned something on every page, despite my innumerate brain. This is a fantastic book, conveyed with clarity, technical mastery, and infectious joy."
— Jad Abumrad, host of Radiolab
"Strogatz's graceful prose is perfectly pitched for a popular math book: authoritative without being patronizing, friendly without being whimsical, and always clear and accessible. His x marks the spot — and hits it."
— Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid
"Even the most mathphobic readers might forget their dread after just a few pages of Strogatz’s (The Calculus of Friendship) latest. The author, a Cornell professor of applied mathematics, begins with arithmetic, by way of Sesame Street, then explores algebra, geometry, and, finally, the wonders of calculus—all done cheerfully, with many a wry turn of phrase. From addition and subtraction, with a glimpse into negative numbers and 'the black art of borrowing,' it’s a quick step into the hardcore detective work of algebra’s search for the unknown x, with algorithms like the quadratic equation, 'the Rodney Dangerfield of algebra' ('it don’t get no respect'). Strogatz rhapsodizes over geometry, which he sees as a marriage of logic and intuition that teaches how to build arguments, step by rigorous step, and geometry’s 'looseygoosey' offshoot, topology. Brisk chapters on prime numbers, basic statistics, and probability are all enlightening without being intimidating. Most impressive is Strogatz’s coverage of calculus, the math used to figure out everything from how fast epidemics spread to the trajectory of a curveball. Readers will appreciate this lighthearted and thoroughly entertaining book."
— Publishers Weekly
"Strogatz, an applied mathematician at Cornell University and author of Sync, has compiled his immensely popular series of New York Times columns and added new material. The Joy of X's six parts, each divided into several short chapters, move from number basics through algebra, geometry, calculus and statistics to the frontiers of math, where conjectures about prime numbers are still floating around unsolved. The goal is a second chance at learning the math that might have passed you by—this time from an adult perspective. The tone is light and conversational, with delightful narratives about lonely numbers and the Tony Soprano psyche of math itself—outwardly tough but inwardly wracked with insecurity. The easily digestible chapters include plenty of helpful examples and illustrations. You'll never forget the Pythagorean theorem again!"
—Scientific American