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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Steven Strogatz’s “Infinite Powers”: Science Is a Story of People | The Center - Merion West

Because we tend only to see the final product of an intellectual endeavor, it is easy to forget that even titans such as Archimedes cannot know the final answer before they get their hands dirty with the problem at hand.”

Photo: Logan Chipkin
Avery general summary of Infinite Powers, by Steven Strogatz, might describe the book as an exposition of the history and application of calculus, one of the most fundamental branches of mathematics ever discovered by mankind, argues Logan Chipkin, freelance writer and PhD candidate studying evolutionary theory. His writings can be found at Areo, Arc Digital, and Medium.
Portrait of Galileo Galilei (1636) by Justus Sustermans (Public Domain)

But such a clinical synopsis would miss the vibrant, personal story that Strogatz tells, reminding us that scientific, philosophical, and mathematical progress is necessarily a human endeavor. Although we stand on the shoulders of giants, those giants were as prone to ego, insecurity, fervor, and mysticism as any of us mere mortals. The stories in Infinite Powers demonstrate that the intellectual rigor by which discoveries are made—and the drama that infuses any tale of people—cannot be separated. The growth of knowledge and humanity are, and have been, forever intertwined. Strogatz reminds us that even the seemingly infallible heroes of our intellectual lineage are flesh and blood, one with the rest of us...

In Infinite Powers, Steven Strogatz writes a very human story of a particular strand of our knowledge, namely, calculus. Along the way, readers will learn about the ancient Greeks’ fascination with geometry, how astronomy led the Scientific Revolution, and how spats between geniuses are just as gossip-worthy as any contemporary celebrity feud.

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Additional resources 

Infinite Powers:
How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
Five Lessons from the Trial of Socrates by Logan Chipkin, PhD Candidate and Writer. 

Source: Merion West