Voltaire's Riddle (Dolciani Mathematical Expositions)

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9780883853450: Voltaire's Riddle (Dolciani Mathematical Expositions)
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Did you know that Voltaire was the first to publish the legend of Isaac Newton discovering gravity upon seeing an apple fall? That he tried for about eight years to be a mathematician? That in 1752 he wrote Micromegas, a story about a French expedition to the arctic (1736-7) whose purpose was to test Newton's controversial theories about gravity? This book is about that story and its underlying mathematics. In summary, an alien giant visits earth and encounters the expedition returning from north of the Baltic Sea. Their ensuing dialogue ranges from measurements of the very small to the very large, from gnats and microorganisms to planets and stars, from man's tendency to make war to dreams of understanding his own spirit. At the end of their conversation, the giant gives man a book with the answers to all things. But when they open it, it is blank. That is the riddle of this book. What does such an ending mean? As a series of vignettes and chapters, the author gives some riddle resolutions. The vignettes (requiring no special mathematics knowledge) describe the people, traditions, and events of the expedition and story. The chapters (accessible to anyone with a background in undergraduate linear algebra, vector calculus, and differential equations) show why a rotating earth must be flattened at the poles, why the tip of the earth's polar axis traces out a curve with period of nearly twenty-six thousand years, why the path of a small black hole dropped at the earth's equator must bea hypocycloid, why an old problem studies by Maupertuis (the leader of the French expedition) is a pursuit curve, and why in measuring phenomena we sometimes get it wrong. All in all, this book is a case study in how mathematical and scientific knowledge becomes common knowledge.

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Book Description:

An exploration of Voltaire's Micromégas, the story of a giant from a planet of Sirius who visits a French expedition on its return from testing Newton's theory of gravity in the polar regions. This book suggests some possible answers to Voltaire's riddle, and presents the related mathematics behind the expedition.

About the Author:

Andrew Simoson earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics under Leonard Asimow at the University of Wyoming in 1979, working on extensions of separating theorems in functional analysis. Since then, he has been chairman of the mathematics department at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, and has authored over thirty papers in various mathematical journals. He has twice been a Fulbright professor, at the University of Botswana, 1990-91, and at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, 1997-98.

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Andrew J. Simoson
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Book Description Mathematical Association of America, United States, 2010. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. In 1752 Voltaire published Micromegas, the story of a 120,000-foot tall resident of a planet of Sirius who visited our solar system. As a parting gift, the visitor gave the French Academy of Sciences a book that, he said, contained the answer to all things. On examination, the book was found to be blank. This is the riddle: why was it blank? Voltaire's Riddle contains a new translation of the story and continues with a series of chapters, each of which begins with a historical or literary vignette followed by the mathematics behind it. Topics include trajectories of comets, the flattening of the Earth at the poles, Maupertius's pursuit problem, Durer's possible use of trochoids, and the precession of the equinoxes. The book ends with possible answers to Voltaire's riddle. Readers need know little more than calculus. Seller Inventory # AAN9780883853450

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Book Description Hardcover. Condition: New. Hardcover. In 1752 Voltaire published Micromegas, the story of a 120,000-foot tall resident of a planet of Sirius who visited our solar system. As a parting gift, the visitor gave the French Academy .Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 396 pages. 0.650. Seller Inventory # 9780883853450

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Book Description Mathematical Association of America, United States, 2010. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. In 1752 Voltaire published Micromegas, the story of a 120,000-foot tall resident of a planet of Sirius who visited our solar system. As a parting gift, the visitor gave the French Academy of Sciences a book that, he said, contained the answer to all things. On examination, the book was found to be blank. This is the riddle: why was it blank? Voltaire's Riddle contains a new translation of the story and continues with a series of chapters, each of which begins with a historical or literary vignette followed by the mathematics behind it. Topics include trajectories of comets, the flattening of the Earth at the poles, Maupertius's pursuit problem, Durer's possible use of trochoids, and the precession of the equinoxes. The book ends with possible answers to Voltaire's riddle. Readers need know little more than calculus. Seller Inventory # AAN9780883853450

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