Galileo Galilei is the Italian mathematician and philosopher often credited with recognizing the essential role of mathematics in our attempt to understand the universe. In his essay “Il Saggiatore” (“The Assayer”), which was written in 1623, Galileo compares nature to a book laid open for us to read. However, he notes that we cannot understand this book unless we “comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed.” For Galileo, the book “is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.”
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While Galileo was thinking primarily of astronomy and physics, mathematical biologist Kit Yates shows us that there is no reason to stop with the physical sciences. In his new book titled “The Math Of Life and Death: 7 Mathematical Principles That Shape Our Lives”, the mathematical biologist argues that math, in a nutshell, is everywhere.
And, as his title suggests, math matters: We need it to understand how nuclear explosions work and how infectious diseases spread (and how they can be stopped); we need it to make sense of medical studies and crime statistics, and to evaluate the arguments that lawyers present in the courtroom; we need it to send rockets into space — and to understand why NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter crashed to the planet’s surface…
Though this is a fun and non-technical book (there are no equations), some of the topics are deadly serious.
Yates also offers us some practical ways to apply math in our lives. Check it out over at Undark.
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