A History of the Circle: Mathematical Reasoning and the Physical Universe

Front Cover
Rutgers University Press, 2000 - Mathematics - 215 pages

The concept of the circle is ubiquitous. It can be described mathematically, represented physically, and employed technologically. The circle is an elegant, abstract form that has been transformed by humans into tangible, practical forms to make our lives easier.

And yet no one has ever discovered a true mathematical circle. Rainbows are fuzzy; car tires are flat on the bottom, and even the most precise roller bearings have measurable irregularities. Ernest Zebrowski, Jr., discusses why investigations of the circle have contributed enormously to our current knowledge of the physical universe. Beginning with the ancient mathematicians and culminating in twentieth-century theories of space and time, the mathematics of the circle has pointed many investigators in fruitful directions in their quests to unravel nature's secrets. Johannes Kepler, for example, triggered a scientific revolution in 1609 when he challenged the conception of the earth's circular motion around the sun. Arab and European builders instigated the golden age of mosque and cathedral building when they questioned the Roman structural arches that were limited to geometrical semicircles.

Throughout his book, Zebrowski emphasizes the concepts underlying these mathematicians' calculations, and how these concepts are linked to real-life examples. Substantiated by easy-to-follow mathematical reasoning and clear illustrations, this accessible book presents a novel and interesting discussion of the circle in technology, culture, history, and science.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

Mostly high-school level, but deigns to display a few differential equations in the second half. Has the usual afflictions of pre-metric units and overleaf figures. Read full review

A history of the circle: mathematical reasoning and the physical universe

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

After Zebrowski's well-received Perils of a Restless Planet (LJ 7/97), this new book is a disappointment. Only partially about circles, the text aims "to examine [for the general reader] the broader ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

The Quest for Pi
1
Rollers Wheels and Bearings
14
The Celestial Clock
26
Mathematics and the Physical World
39
Charting the Planet
51
Surface and Space
68
Celestial Orbs
86
From Conics to Gravity
104
Waves
144
Artificial and Natural Structures
166
The Real and Conjectured Universe
184
Formulas for the areas of common shapes
201
Formulas for the volumes of common solids
202
Algebraic equations for the conic sections
203
Notes
205
Index
211

Oscillations
124

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