CTK Insights

Archive for the 'About mathematicians' Category

09 Oct

Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner

Tweet Martin Gardner refers to his latest, and - perhaps - last, book as a rambling (and also slovenly) autobiography, disheveled memoirs. It is anything but. It is the most sincere, unadulterated biography I ever read. He wrote it in 2009-2010 on an old typewriter while at an assisted living facility. "At ninety-five I still […]

06 Jul

Weather Forecasting: A Story of Mathematical Triumph

But naturally, mathematics was not evolving all by itself. The authors excel in presenting establishment of the science of meteorology as a human endeavor. The history of meteorology is rich in perseverance, sacrifice, enthusiasm, ingenuity, useful missteps, multinational collaboration ... and plain hard work. Authors' fluent recount makes the story all the more fascinating, even if math applications are only at the back of your mind. The book is a superior read.

05 Jun

Naming Infinity - the book

This is an unusual book that eludes categorization. It's an outline of fundamental mathematical ideas cultivated by human beings, of mathematics as a human endeavor in the most candid sense of the word. It's a collection of biographical sketches - and not only of mathematicians - on a historic background, spread from the Dreyfus affair in France, and over the failed Russian revolution of 1905, the WWI, the October revolution, the Stalinists purges, the WWII, and post-Stalinist experimentations.

The book is a tangle of documented evidence and, likely, anecdotal testimony. It's warm, humane and makes an absorbing reading

12 Mar

Why cats land on their feet - a problem of 80 years standing!

Now, the thing that surprised me most in the course of the investigation was a wikipedia reference to the 1969 article by T. Kane and M. P. Scher "A dynamical explanation of the falling cat phenomenon" (International Journal of Solids and Structures 5 (7): 663–670. doi:10.1016/0020-7683(69)90086-9), as the solution as "originally due to (Kane & Scher 1969)." This appears to imply that the problem remained (officially, at least) unsolved for about 80 long years - quite on a par with the, say, better known Poincaré conjecture. But think of it, most probably the members of the Académie des sciences in Paris were not the first to ponder the question, which leads to a conclusion that the question has a much longer history. Hmm, I would never guess.

21 Jul

Roman, decimal and sexagesimal

The three problems have been posed to Leonardo by Johannes of Palermo at the request of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. Leonardo sent a copy of the solutions to Frederick; whether he intended the book for a broader audience I do not know. If he did, we may conclude that the sexagesimal system was in use beyond the educated court of Frederick, but evidently the court mathematicians and Frederick himself have not fully internalized the decimal system. That this was indeed so. There is no record in which system the calculations were carried out, just the answer which was written as a sexagesimal number.

07 Jul

It Takes a Mathematician to Appreciate Architecture

The Dean wondered why he had promised the professor of mathematics to do all he could for this boy. Merely because the professor had said: "This," and pointed to Roark's project, "is a great man." A great man, thought the Dean, or a criminal. The Dean winced. He did not approve of either.

16 Jun

Weakly Refuted Story of Queen Victoria

TweetI like buying books, especially serendipitously. For the past year this was mostly by simply browsing the amazon.com Kindle store. Today after a long hiatus I bought a book in a bookstore of old ("conventional" may not be the right word anymore.) I've been taking a walk with my sister-in-law - a full-time Israeli, and […]

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