# The Universe in Zero Words

## The Story of Mathematics as Told Through Equations

Book - 20120691152829

## Opinion

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#### Summary

Add a SummaryDana MacKenzie, a mathematician with a doctorate from Princeton University, discusses important equations drawn from pure and applied mathematics in a book intended for the lay reader. He divides the book into four chronologically based sections: antiquity, the age of exploration, the 19th century, and the 20th century. MacKenzie states each equation and discusses its meaning, historical context, and importance in mathematics, physics, or finance. Topics include arithmetic; zero; the Pythagorean Theorem; pi; Zeno's paradoxes and the meaning of infinity; Archimedes' law of the lever; the solution of the cubic equation by radicals; Kepler's laws of planetary motion; Fermat's Last Theorem; the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus; Newton's laws of motion; Euler's theorems; Hamilton's quaternions; group theory; non-Euclidean geometry; the prime number theorem; Fourier series; Maxwell's equations of electricity and magnetism; the photoelectric effect and relativity; Dirac's formula (quantum mechanics); the Chern-Gauss-Bonnet equation; the Continuum Hypothesis; the Lorenz equations (chaos); the Black-Scholes equations for financial derivatives.

## Comment

Add a CommentAbsolutely loved this exploration of some of the most important equations and concepts in math, including zero, and I thank the author for including mathematicians outside of Europe. This made me think, for the millionth time, that we need to rethink our approach to mathematics in school; it's more important for children to understand the existence of important mathematical constructs, and we shouldn't make proficiency a function of how well students can manipulate equations. Also, why aren't more children taught about the non-Euclidean geometry?

The title of Dana MacKenzie's book, The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told Through Equations, is ironic. The book, which is intended for the lay reader, is comprised almost entirely of words. MacKenzie, a mathematician with a doctorate from Princeton University, states each equation, then discusses its meaning, historical context, and importance. The exposition is brief, lucid, and qualitative. One caveat: MacKenzie has a tendency to dismiss historical anecdotes about mathematical discoveries without making clear how he came to his conclusions. While MacKenzie provides a bibliography, he does not include footnotes or endnotes. Lay readers will find this book more accessible than Ian Stewart's similarly themed In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World. Both books are worth reading.