Cover image for On the shoulders of giants
On the shoulders of giants
Lines, Malcolm E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Bristol ; :Philadelphia : Institute of Physics Pub., [1994]

Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :

On Order



Malcolm Lines sets out to investigate the relationship between the disciplines of physics and mathematics and the facts and coincidences behind scientific progress. With each chapter, he demonstrates how mathematics has provided the theoretical understanding which underpins physical experiment.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Written in a popular style, this book is a paean to what has been called "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics." Eleven vignettes illustrate how the rarefied discoveries of pure mathematicians ultimately became vital to fundamental investigations of the physical world. The reader may learn about the relationships between sphere packings and glassy matter, Euclidean geometry and general relativity, Fourier analysis and electron motion in crystals, quaternions and electromagnetism, Penrose tilings and quasi crystals, Newtonian dynamics and quantum chaos, groups and superstrings, probability theory and thermodynamics, topology and polymers, Mandelbrot sets and diffusion-limited aggregation, and calculus and quantum mechanics. Although the exposition is typical of the high standards of British (as distinct from American) science journalism and judiciously goes into some depth where appropriate, one does not find here the miracles of exposition by which a Feynman, Hawking, or Penrose renders Olympian ideas in plain terms. The book seems solid on matters of fact, but a longer review would have to quibble about various points of interpretation, most notable the bizarre claim that "mathematicians ... would claim that they are rarely, if ever, to be found standing on the shoulders of scientists." Perhaps Lines's next book should examine the impact on mathematics of the meteoric career of physicist Edward Witten. Upper-division undergraduate through faculty. D. V. Feldman University of New Hampshire

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