Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos

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9780385474290: Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos
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In the bestselling literary tradition of Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell and James Watson's The Double Helix, Poetry of the Universe is a delightful and compelling narrative charting the evolution of mathematical ideas that have helped to illuminate the nature of the observable universe. In a richly anecdotal fashion, the book explores the leaps of imagination and vision in mathematics that have helped pioneer our understanding of the world around us.

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CRITICS CHOICE: BEST NONFICTION A math book on the the Top 10 list? A joke? you ask. No, an amazing little book: "Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos," by Robert Osserman. A mathematican at Stanford University, Osserman tells the evolution of mathematical ideas in delightfully artful and beguiling ways, with limpid illustrations. "Lucid, precise and comprehensible," wrote Thomas Levenson in this section. Osserman's book "joins the very small number of works that allow a non-mathematical audience to share in the essence of the mathematician's delight." -- Boston Globe, December 10, 1995

In 1854 Riemann conjectured that the universe as a whole might be non-Euclidean in nature, curving into a "hypersphere" - the higher-dimensional equivalent of a sphere. Mr. Osserman justly calls Riemann's spherical universe "one of the most original and radical departures from the standard world-view in the history of science." And through a series of deft analogies - drawing on everything from the history of cartography to Dante's "Divine Comedy" - he gets the reader to appreciate its extraordinary elegance and power. "To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature," the physicist Richard Feynman once said. The charm of Mr. Osserman's little book is that, using images rather than equations, it conveys just the right amount of mathematics - enough so that you can start to savor the poetry of the universe in its original language. -- Wall Street Journal, February 17, 1995

Like so many others before me, I had bought and eagerly begun Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time," hoping to come away with some understanding of the universe around me. And like so many others, I stopped reading after the first chapter, unable to wade through it. So I was skeptical of Osserman's claim that he could illuminate the average reader on the cosmos, the curved nature of the universe, the Big Bang, the whole ball of wax, so to speak. But illuminate he does. This slim and beautiful book explains Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry without complex formulas. Osserman fills his book with anecdotes and stories. Complex ideas are related with analogies and easily understood drawings rather than equations and jargon. It's this blending of the qualitative with the quantitative, the observable with the implied, the poetry with the math, that makes this book such a delight. -- Charlotte Observer, October 1999

Math has helped pioneer an understanding of the world: Osserman's mathematical exploration of the universe examines the changed concepts of space, time and nature as math equations helped define worlds. From measurement to shape, this discusses inviting new ways of looking at the world and will appeal to non-math readers. -- Midwest Book Review

There have been many books on how the universe expanded into its present shape from the big bang. But I have seen none that so successfully help us stretch our minds so that we can see expanding space curved somewhat like the surface of the Earth, but in three dimensions rather than the Earth's two, and with the added fourth dimension, time. Mr. Osserman centers his story on three giants of mathematics... Leonhard Euler ... Carl Friedrich Gauss... and Bernhard Riemann. There are many other mathematicians and some scientists in Mr. Osserman's story, and he is a storyteller who knows how to use personal anecdotes to illustrate their ideas and their work. Altogether he conveys a clear sense of how mathematicians work, think, and above all, imagine. And by the end he has drawn a picture of the universe, and our efforts to explore it, that is at once magnificent and truly charming. -- New York Times, May 21, 1995

From Booklist:

With nary an equation to confuse, a Stanford math professor clearly distills for a general readership the seminal ideas behind the notion that space has curvature and is not flat as ordinary humans perceive it. Osserman has been working up to this book through his classes for humanities majors, and the result is as lucid, comprehensible, and engaging as will be found in this category of scientific writing. He begins with ancient measurements of the earth, in which Euclid's geometry figures critically, but reaches cruising speed in his presentations of the nineteenth-century German mathematicians Carl Friedrich Gauss and Georg Friedrich Riemann. They are the best-known inventors of non-Euclidean geometry, whose commonest concept is that not all angles of all triangles add up to 180; the sum depends on the curvature of the surface in question. The ramifications cascade from there, into the shape of the retroverse, as the author tags our celestial view back into time and on toward invented abstract multidimensional shapes dubbed manifolds. Libraries know the popularity of sagas on observational astronomy and particle physics, and this examination of the mathematical component, specifically the species of geometry, fits well within their compass. A warm invitation to the aesthetics of math on the largest scale. Gilbert Taylor

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780385473408: Poetry of the Universe: A Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos

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ISBN 10:  0385473400 ISBN 13:  9780385473408
Publisher: Doubleday, 1995
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9780297815167: Poetry of the Universe: Mathematical Exploration of the Cosmos

Weiden..., 1995
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9781857998177: POETRY OF THE UNIVERSE: MATHEMATICAL EXPLORATION OF THE COSMOS

Phoeni..., 1996
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Book Description Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc, United States, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Anchor Bks Trad.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In the bestselling literary tradition of Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell and James Watson's The Double Helix, Poetry of the Universe is a delightful and compelling narrative charting the evolution of mathematical ideas that have helped to illuminate the nature of the observable universe. In a richly anecdotal fashion, the book explores the leaps of imagination and vision in mathematics that have helped pioneer our understanding of the world around us. Seller Inventory # BZV9780385474290

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Book Description Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc, United States, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Anchor Bks Trad.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In the bestselling literary tradition of Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell and James Watson's The Double Helix, Poetry of the Universe is a delightful and compelling narrative charting the evolution of mathematical ideas that have helped to illuminate the nature of the observable universe. In a richly anecdotal fashion, the book explores the leaps of imagination and vision in mathematics that have helped pioneer our understanding of the world around us. Seller Inventory # BTE9780385474290

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