Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pg. 99: John A. Adam's "Mathematics in Nature"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: John A. Adam's Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World.

About the book, from the publisher:
From rainbows, river meanders, and shadows to spider webs, honeycombs, and the markings on animal coats, the visible world is full of patterns that can be described mathematically. Examining such readily observable phenomena, this book introduces readers to the beauty of nature as revealed by mathematics and the beauty of mathematics as revealed in nature.

Generously illustrated, written in an informal style, and replete with examples from everyday life, Mathematics in Nature is an excellent and undaunting introduction to the ideas and methods of mathematical modeling. It illustrates how mathematics can be used to formulate and solve puzzles observed in nature and to interpret the solutions. In the process, it teaches such topics as the art of estimation and the effects of scale, particularly what happens as things get bigger. Readers will develop an understanding of the symbiosis that exists between basic scientific principles and their mathematical expressions as well as a deeper appreciation for such natural phenomena as cloud formations, halos and glories, tree heights and leaf patterns, butterfly and moth wings, and even puddles and mud cracks.

Developed out of a university course, this book makes an ideal supplemental text for courses in applied mathematics and mathematical modeling. It will also appeal to mathematics educators and enthusiasts at all levels, and is designed so that it can be dipped into at leisure.
Among the acclaim for the book:
"Mathematics in Nature is an excellent resource for bringing a greater variety of patterns into the mathematical study of nature, as well as for teaching students to think about describing natural phenomena mathematically.... [T]he breadth of patterns studied is phenomenal."
--Will Wilson, American Scientist

"John Adam has combined his interest in the great outdoors and applied mathematics to compile one surprising example after another of how mathematics can be used to explain natural phenomena. And what examples! ... [He] has done a great deal of reading and exposition, indulging his passions to create this compilation of mathematical models of natural phenomena, and the sheer number of examples he manages to cram into this book is testament to his efforts. There are other texts on the market which explore the connection between mathematics and nature ... but none this wide-ranging."
--Steven Morics, MAA Online

"Adam has laced his mathematical models with popular descriptions of the phenomena selected.... Mathematics in Nature can accordingly be read for pleasure and instruction by the select laity who are not afraid of reading between the lines of equations."
--Philip J. Davis, SIAM News

"John Adam's quest is a very simple one: that is, to invite one to look around and observe the wonders of nature, both natural and biological; to ponder them; and to try to explain them at various levels with, for the most part, quite elementary mathematical concepts and techniques.
--Brian D. Sleeman, Notices of the American Mathematical Association

"Reading this book progressively creates a course in mathematical modeling built around familiar, tangible, human-scale examples, with a trajectory that takes readers from dimensional estimates through geometrical modeling, linear and nonlinear dynamics, to pattern formation."
Read an excerpt from Mathematics in Nature, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

John A. Adam is professor of mathematics at Old Dominion University. His new book, with Lawrence Weinstein, is Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin.

The Page 99 Test: Guesstimation.

The Page 99 Test: Mathematics in Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue