Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe (Paperback)
From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus—how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.
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 (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). 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 make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn’t miss the moon; 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.
About the Author
STEVEN STROGATZ is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for the New York Times and The New Yorker and has been a frequent guest on Radiolab and Science Friday. He is the author of Sync and The Joy of x. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
A New York Times Bestseller Featured on NPR's Science Friday Shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize Named one of 10 Best Books to Read this Spring by Amazon's Chris Schluep “Marvelous . . . an array of witty and astonishing stories . . . to illuminate how calculus has helped bring into being our contemporary world and so many of the instruments whose role we now blithely assume.” —The Washington Post “Fortunately, we live in an era when a top mathematician can write a book about calculus that is accessible to the mathematically challenged...it is the historical detail in the book that not only allows me to follow the math by taking me through how it was discovered, but also sticks in my mind. [Strogatz] makes me want to get out a textbook and start studying calculus.” —Five Books “Wonderful . . . bringing the insights of calculus—among the most important of all developments in the history of mathematics—to everyone.” —Brian Greene, on Twitter “I've never read a clearer explanation of calculus or the significant powers we gained by harnessing infinity. Michael and I highly recommend it!” —Vsauce, on Twitter “Fascinating anecdotes abound in Infinite Powers . . . Strogatz uses the right amount of technical detail to convey complex concepts with clarity . . . evocatively conveys how calculus illuminates the patterns of the Universe, large and small.” —Nature “A brilliant, appealing explanation of how calculus works and why it makes our lives so much better.” —Amazon's Chris Schluep, for the Saturday Evening Post “Strogatz does a great job of explaining a difficult subject . . . he lays out the case that calculus is fundamental to the way we live today . . . a solid choice for readers who want to know what calculus is all about, and for teachers who wish to improve their presentation.” —Library Journal “An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author’s love of mathematics.” —Kirkus Reviews “Far-ranging survey . . . clear and accessible . . . Strogatz successfully illuminates a notoriously complex topic and this work should enhance appreciation for the history behind its innovations." —Publishers Weekly “A tale of how mathematics has changed all of our lives… Strogatz is a terrific storyteller and patient teacher…. By bringing infinity down to earth… and coupling those stories with some periodic excursions back out to the stars, Infinite Powers does a marvelous job of bringing calculus to life.” —Dan Rockmore, LitHub “Are you one of those people who always said you’d someday learn calculus? Well, someday is here, thanks to Steven Strogatz’s wide-ranging, humane, thoroughly readable take on one of the greatest ideas our species has ever produced.” —Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong “This is a glorious book. Steven Strogatz manages to unmask the true hidden wonder and delightful simplicity of calculus. Infinite Powers is a master class in accessible math writing and a perfect read for anyone who feels like they never quite understood what all the fuss was about. It had me leaping for joy.”  —