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Infinite Powers

How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
Written by: Steven Strogatz
Narrated by: Bob Souer
Length: 10 hrs and 41 mins
Categories: History, World
4 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Without calculus, we wouldn't have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn't have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.    

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz's brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it's about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number - infinity - to tackle real world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.    

Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalized and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves. Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes "backwards" sometimes; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.    

As Strogatz proves, calculus is truly the language of the universe. By unveiling the principles of that language, Infinite Powers makes us marvel at the world anew.

©2019 Steven Strogatz (P)2019 Tantor

What members say

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Wonderful book!

The book is an excellent account of the history of Mathematics. It shows how the universe speaks to us in the language of maths and how calculus helps us connect it all. The oration (performance) is also amazing. For all the mathematically inclined, it’s a must listen :)

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent attempt to storify Calculus

Liked the way the book is organized, and it's an excellent attempt to storify Calculus & it has succeeded to a great extent. IAt middle of the book, it has become too difficult to follow as it was near to impossible to visualize the equations just by hearing.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-09-19

Elegant, clear, cutting edge.

If you're curious, but mathematically hopeless, this is splendid. I found the opening overview particularly illuminating, but throughout it joins history, to biography, to physics, to math in a clear but not condescending manner.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous
  • 05-09-19

Great for those learning calculus

I'm in differential equations right now this is a good overview of the theories of calculus and covers aspects missed in lectures

7 people found this helpful

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  • J. Gudger
  • 30-01-20

Great overbiew

I'm not a math person by trade although I do enjoy mathematics. This book is a great way to get a wide breadth idea of the history of calculus. I suggest this book to anyone who kind of wants to know about the math without getting too into the Weeds about how to do it. Beautifully written and excellently narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • ronald r reagan
  • 21-03-20

Infinite powers

Did not download all the way. Audible downloaded first 9 minutes. First 9 minutes were great. Need while book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-03-20

history

explains calculus but not heavy on math
Lots of illustrations. good for teaching anyone at any age

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  • A Reader in Maine
  • 21-02-20

Not written to be read aloud

Don’t get me wrong—this is a great book and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I highly recommend it. But in many parts, the performer has to read aloud some complicated equations that are tough to follow if you are, say, listening while driving. As a statistician, I was familiar with 80% of the concepts discussed and have heard of the rest, and I struggled at times.
I recommend buying the book to read, so one can slow down when needed, or listen to it with a pencil and paper handy.
That said, this book gave me many new insights and explanations that will inform my teaching going forward.

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  • M. McCreary
  • 10-02-20

Read the book

This is a great discussion of the development and use of calculus, but if you're not comfortable with the topic, the audiobook isn't the best way to read it. The narrator does a great job, but with so many equations in the text, it's just easier to read the hard copy.

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  • Timothy S.
  • 24-01-20

Infinitely Awesome! So much fun.

Missing insight on eastern math is meaningless compared to the tale of modern infinities.

Fun listen on headphones but some pencil and paper moments when a peek at the math is required.

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  • Tyler
  • 29-12-19

Beautiful

As a young newly inspired fellow, I’ve been surprisingly driven to read and listen to such books as Strogatz’s here. It gorgeously weaves often difficult to imagine notions of mathematics into a web of relevance.

I am registered to take calculus in the next semester, and could not have imagined a better primer. I’m hooked. I am craving to learn more, and this book has teased the desire for advancement to an incredible degree. I’ve listed this book as one I must return to after actually learning to DO the calculus he dances around. But until then, I have only dreamy things to say about the book.

Narration is wonderful. As with any scientific / mathematic audio, there are tedious portions where it becomes difficult to follow given the nature of embedding equations and proofs into paragraphs. But this is, to me, apparent and obvious. I like to consider the portions of technical speak as a challenge to myself whether I can follow. I’ll repeat it several times until I understand or decide I’m not quite studied enough to understand more deeply than I do.

Mathematics is a language of translating “reality” into symbols and back again, judging their synergy along the way. To expect a book on mathematics NOT to contain technical paragraphs, is a mistake. I loved them.

If you are reading reviews looking for fuel to motivate your own decision, do it.

Especially if you are willing to be curious.
If you would like to learn.
And if you want to explore the universe, mathematics is nestled amongst the best available tools to do so.

Dive in. Enjoy.

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  • TJ Granack
  • 17-09-19

Disappointing

William Gilbert, not Galileo Galilei, wrote the first book to use scientific method. It's called De Magnete, published in 1600, Kind of a famous treatise. (There's an original copy at the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention in their permanent Dawn of the Electrical Age Exhibit, Bellingham, WA.)
Minor inaccuracies like this made the book irritating and ultimately unreadable. Perhaps this book is intended for beginners uninterested in specifics (Galileo is a more easily recognizable & memorable name--and perhaps the author thought it too confusing for readers to get the whole Galileo, Kepler & Gilbert thing right.) You'd think a book on mathmatics would be more accurate and less interested in shaving corners to make a point.
TJ Granack

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-03-20

Excellent

good storyline for the why of calculus
plus the historical perspective
easy to stop and start without losing the plot

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-12-19

Great audiobook

Recommended for anyone with a basic to advanced knowledge of calculus. Well narrated with a descriptive story.

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  • Systems 157, Inc.
  • 20-09-19

And why school maths has it all wrong...

It is truly an intellectual crime the way maths is taught in schools, and this, yet another great mathematics based story, so continually gripping in revealing how amazing our understanding of the universe and its workings is through the intellectual lens of maths, plus the fascinating odyssey humans and the star historical players have taken us on throughout history demonstrates how alive, engaging, enthralling and important mathematics truly is to humans, that our global education system fails to empart and provide the passion, knowledge and appreciation this subject deserves, makes it a crime of infinitely incalculable proportions!

Well done yet again Professor Strogatz, I am in complete awe at your work yet again, well done...

RE: "A Mathematicians Lament" -- has it so correct!!