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Second paragraph of third chapter:
During those two years, an obscure and unassuming undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, completed his studies. Hoping to avoid the plague, he returned to the house of his birth, from which his mother managed a farm. His father had died shortly before he was born, and he had been brought up by his maternal grandmother. Perhaps inspired by rural peace and quiet, or lacking anything better to do with his time, the young man thought about science and mathematics. Later he wrote: 'In those days I was in the prime of my life for invention, and minded mathematics and [natural] philosophy more than at any other time since.' His researches led him to understand the importance of the inverse square law of gravity, an idea that had been hanging around ineffectually for at least 50 years. He worked out a practical method for solving problems in calculus, another concept that was in the air but had not been formulated in any generality. And he discovered that white sunlight is composed of many different colours — all the colours of the rainbow.
One of my colleagues saw me reading this, and commented that while he recognised Pythagoras a2 + b2 = c2, and also Einstein's E = mc2, the third equation on the front cover was unknown to him. It is:
2u = c2 2u

∂t2 ∂x2
I guess the wave equation isn't as visible in popular culture as the other two. Be that as it may, this is a breezy popular science book, by an author well known in Pratchett fandom, looking at a succession of well known scientific equations and the concepts and consequences that have flowed from each one. He finishes with the Black-Scholes equation regarding the price of financial derivatives:
½ σ2S2 2V +  rS ∂V + ∂V -  rV = 0

∂S2 ∂S ∂t
However, it's not actually clear that Black-Scholes is correct, or that it is helpful (which may not be the same thing). A nice popularising book for the advanced reader; get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2012; next on that list is Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2018 06:27 pm (UTC)
I didn't know you were a Mathmo, or even a Mathmo-inclined person. I grew up amongst a coterie of them, many of them scholarship boys like me.
Mar. 19th, 2018 08:17 pm (UTC)
I was a Natsci rather than a Mathmo, but there were enough DAMTP people in CUSFS for me to be well-informed!
Mar. 19th, 2018 08:37 pm (UTC)
My Ex was NatSci (2:1) before she did her Law conversion under the old rules in a year, where she redeemed herself rather spectacularly. :)

Most of my chums were mainly King's or Trinity, with Ponny being at Peterhouse, poor lad. I guess I'm older than you (Mid 50's) but you may have been in the same years as Fred (my Ex - who is late 40's).

I wrote a really self-indulgent novel about twenty years ago which dealt with some of the folk I knew from those days. Never got published, thank the gods. Prof Hawking featured in a minor role, with all of the stories I've mentioned. Weirdly I gave it to Ponny (who apart from being a shrink also doubles as an editor) to look at. He hasn't got back to me, which is a relief. :)

Next time you're in town, and without attendant difficulties etc let me know and I'll stand you lunch at the RA or a pint or something.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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