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Without calculus, we wouldn’t have mobile phones, TV, GPS or ultrasound; we wouldn’t have unravelled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in our pocket. Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school, 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. Strogatz is Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University.
The mathematician examines the nature of creativity and provides an essential guide into how algorithms work, and the mathematical rules underpinning them. He asks how much of our emotional response to art is a product of our brains reacting to pattern and structure, and exactly what it is to be creative in mathematics, art, language and music. Du Sautoy finds out how long it might be before machines come up with something creative, and whether they might jolt us into being more imaginative in turn. The result is a fascinating and very different exploration into both AI and the essence of what it means to be human.
Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman. The award-winning campaigner and writer shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.