A Mathematical Mystery Tour: Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Cosmos

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Wiley, Mar 12, 1999 - Mathematics - 218 pages
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A Mathematical Mystery Tour In this delightfully thought-provoking reading adventure, acclaimed author A. K. Dewdney takes us on a fictional journey around the world in search of the solution to one of the greatest ancient mysteries of mathematics. From the Temple of Apollo to the Arabian desert, and from the winding canals of Venice to the medieval halls of Oxford, Dewdney searches through highlights in the history of mathematics for an answer to the timeless question: Why is it that the cosmos-from the tiny world of atoms to the shape of the universe itself-is so miraculously governed by mathematical laws? Could it be that our world is in some sense made of mathematics, as Pythagoras famously proposed? Or is it we (or the mathematicians among us) who make mathematics? Are the remarkable theorems and equations that describe the world around us discovered, or are they created? Is mathematics the very fabric of the cosmos, or does it exist only in the human mind? Dewdney's tour begins amid the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Miletus, where Pythagoras devised his famous eponymous theorem and proposed his most provocative assertion: the world is made of numbers. On the steps of the Temple of Apollo, Dewdney meets Dr. Petros Pygonopolis, the first of many intriguing characters-each a specialist in an area in mathematics-who will guide him on his quest. We are treated to a lively introduction to some of Pythagoras' most intriguing discoveries, as well as the mysterious story of the famed Pythagorean Brotherhood. From there, we are whisked to the port city of Aqaba at the head of the Red Sea and travel on by camel to the heart of the Arabian desert with Professor Jusuf al-Flayli, an expert on ancient Islamic astronomy, who reveals the mathematical secrets of the night sky and tells the captivating story of the fabled House of Wisdom. Then to the Piazza San Marco, the romantic heart of Venice, where we meet physicist Maria Canzoni, who unveils the bizarre mysteries of atomic theory and shares her novel idea of the "quantum curtain" that hangs between the human mind and the elusive realm of the deepest phenomena that govern reality. Finally, in the valley of the river Thames, Dewdney consults with renowned mathematician Sir John Brainard of Merton College, Oxford, who explores the notion that computers are "engines of thought" and introduces Dewdney to "mad scientist" David Gridbourne, the inventor of a computer program he claims has come to life. This inventive and entertaining odyssey, written by one of mathematics' most gifted expositors, offers fresh insight into the amazing power of the mathematics all around us and a new appreciation of the mathematical mysteries of the cosmos.

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A mathematical mystery tour: discovering the truth and beauty of the cosmos

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Dewdney, a computer science professor and author of several popular works on science and mathematics (Yes, We Have No Neutrons, Wiley, 1997), addresses two closely related, long-pondered questions ... Read full review


The Birth of a Theorem
The Superior world

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About the author (1999)

A. K. DEWDNEY, Ph,D., is the author of several critically acclaimed math and science books, including Yes, We Have No Neutrons, 200% of Nothing, The Armchair Universe, and The Planiverse: Computer Contact with a Two-Dimensional World.

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