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Ernest Zebrowski

A history of the circle

Mathematics is very good at giving precise answers, but many people have wondered just how useful this is in practice. In A history of the circle Ernest Zebrowski takes a look at this question, using the circle as an example. He dicusses how meaningful it is to calculate pi to billions of decimals when we can only measure circumference of a circle to few decimal places. He goes on to look at the invention of the wheel, at the occurence of circles in astronomy and at waves and the work of Fourier. In the last couple of chapters he looks further at the theoretical/practical dichotomy.

However, it is difficult to see what readership this book is intended for. The various examples given in the book are reasonably interesting if you don't already know about them, but I felt that none of the discussion was deep enough to satisfy a reasonable knowledgable reader. On the other hand there are quite a few equations in the book - even differential equations. Now you don't have to understand this mathematics in order to follow the book but I feel that it is likely to put off a beginner in the subject. The one group who might find the book of use are those who are at the start of the study of calculus, and want to see how it relates to the real world.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews