Archive for Evariste Galois

cobbler’s son

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by xi'an

A marginalia I forgot to mention in my review of Bill Bryson’s “Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society is that I discovered therein that George Boole FRS was the son of a cobbler. George Boole’s story and fundamental contributions to logic and probability theory is covered in Ian Stewart’s chapter, who is lauding him as a founder of theoretical computer science and of abstract algebra (along with the slightly older Evariste Galois). Anyway, I appreciated the tiny and completely irrelevant connection with Boole, in that my father also was a cobbler!

the universe in zero words

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by xi'an

The universe in zero words: The story of mathematics as told through equations is a book with a very nice cover: in case you cannot see the details on the picture, what looks like stars on a bright night sky are actually equations discussed in the book (plus actual stars!)…

The universe in zero words is written by Dana Mackenzie (check his website!) and published by Princeton University Press. (I received it in the mail from John Wiley for review, prior to its publication on May 16, nice!) It reads well and quick: I took it with me in the métro one morning and was half-way through it the same evening, as the universe in zero words remains on the light side, esp. for readers with a high-school training in math. The book strongly reminded me (at times) of my high school years and of my fascination for Cardano’s formula and the non-Euclidean geometries. I was also reminded of studying quaternions for a short while as an undergraduate by the (arguably superfluous) chapter on Hamilton. So a pleasant if unsurprising read, with a writing style that is not always at its best, esp. after reading Bill Bryson’s “Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society“, and a book unlikely to bring major epiphanies to the mathematically inclined. If well-documented, free of typos, and engaging into some mathematical details (accepting to go against the folk rule that “For every equation you put in, you will lose half of your audience.” already mentioned in Diaconis and Graham’s book). With alas a fundamental omission: no trace is found therein of Bayes’ formula! (The very opposite of Bryson’s introduction, who could have arguably stayed away from it.) The closest connection with statistics is the final chapter on the Black-Scholes equation, which does not say much about probability…. It is of course the major difficulty with the exercise of picking 24 equations out of the history of maths and physics that some major and influential equations had to be set aside… Maybe the error was in covering (or trying to cover) formulas from physics as well as from maths. Now, rather paradoxically (?) I learned more from the physics chapters: for instance, the chapters on Maxwell’s, Einstein’s, and Dirac’s formulae are very well done. The chapter on the fundamental theorem of calculus is also appreciable.

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Évariste Galois in the métro…

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by xi'an

This morning, while waiting for a very late métro, I took those pictures from the platform.

These posters were in Bourg-la-Reine, where Évariste Galois was born in 1811 and which now celebrates the 200th anniversary of his birth. There are other celebrations around, at IHP for instance.