Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define Our Universe

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Basic Books, Sep 6, 2011 - Science - 240 pages
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Our fascination with numbers begins when we are children and continues throughout our lives. We start counting our fingers and toes and end up balancing checkbooks and calculating risk. So powerful is the appeal of numbers that many people ascribe to them a mystical significance. Other numbers go beyond the supernatural, working to explain our universe and how it behaves.

In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James D. Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the numbers that define our world. Everyone knows about the speed of light and absolute zero, but numbers like Boltzmann’s constant and the Chandrasekhar limit are not as well known, and they do far more than one might imagine: They tell us how this world began and what the future holds. Much more than a gee-whiz collection of facts and figures, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important—both to the scientist and to the rest of us.

 

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Contents

THE SPEED OF LIGHT
THE IDEAL GAS CONSTANT
ABSOLUTE ZERO
AVOGADROS NUMBER
ELECTRICITY AND THE PROPORTIONALITY CONSTANT
THE BOLTZMANN CONSTANT
THE PLANCK CONSTANT
THE SCHWARZSCHILD RADIUS
THE EFFICIENCY OF HYDROGEN FUSION
THE CHANDRASEKHAR LIMIT
THE HUBBLE CONSTANT
The Special Theory of Relativity
OMEGA
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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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