Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers that Define Our Universe

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Basic Books, 2011 - Mathematics - 228 pages
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"Our fascination with numbers begins when we are children, and continues, for most of us, throughout our lives. We start counting our fingers and toes, and end up balancing check books and calculating risk. So powerful is the appeal of numbers that many people ascribe to them a mystical significance. And there are some numbers whose importance even transcends the supernatural--these numbers work to explain our universe and how it behaves. In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the great numbers in that define our world. Some numbers, like the speed of light and absolute zero, are well known to the general public. Others, such as Boltzmann's constant and the Chandrasekhar limit, are known only to those with a deep knowledge of science. But these numbers do far more than the average person might dare to imagine: they tell us how this world began, the way we were and the way we are, and what the future holds. Stein reveals the manner in which certain cosmic numbers came to light, the dramatis personae involved, and cutting-edge developments associated with these numbers. Many are the cornerstones of grand discoveries and theories. They represent landmarks in the history of intellectual achievement. And the stories of these numbers offer a novel understanding of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and ourselves. Much more than a gee-whiz collection of numbers, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important--both to scientists and to the rest of us. "--Provided by publisher.
 

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Contents

I
1
II
15
III
29
IV
43
V
57
VI
71
VII
85
VIII
103
IX
117
X
133
XI
149
XII
167
XIII
185
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About the author (2011)

James D. Stein received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a professor of mathematics at the California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of three previous books: How Math Explains the World, The Right Decision, and How Math Can Save Your Life. He lives in Redondo Beach, California, with his wife.

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