Brief description of some recent Brownian motion through books:
A little while ago I read Morris Kline’s [book: Mathematics for the Nonmathematician], which I loved. Somewhere within it, he sang the praises of Philip Davis’s [book: The Mathematical Experience]; I think Kline said that Davis’s book was the greatest book ever written on the experience of doing mathematics. So I filed it away on ye olde wish list.
So we come to today, when I find myself bored with all the books available to me. This happens occasionally. The usual trick out of this is to read something by John McPhee. (I’d recommend [book: The Curve of Binding Energy], about nuclear weapons manufacturing and the men who do it. I’d also recommend [book: Uncommon Carriers], about the people who carry packages for us. I would also recommend almost everything else by McPhee, though I couldn’t get into his geology books. Perhaps I’ll give them another try because, outside of [book: Annals of the Former World], he’s batted 1.000 with me.) Without any McPhee (that I hadn’t already read) to hand today, though, and having not found him in my wish list, I looked for something that a) would likely grab my interest and b) was available at the beautiful Cambridge Public Library. The Davis book satisfied both criteria (as did [book: Lives of a Cell]), so I went to pick it up.
My memory called forth a book called [book: The Undecidable: Basic Papers on Undecidable Propositions, Unsolvable Problems and Computable Functions], which I thought might be by the same Davis. (Turns out it was Martin Davis.) This led me to ask the Wiki about Philip Davis. Turns out he won a prize for “an outstanding expository article on a mathematical topic”. Turns out that paper is a historical profile of the Γ function.
The paper is just so fun and engagingly written, and it makes me all the more excited to dive into [book: The Mathematical Experience]. Anyone with some college calculus under his or her belt, and some interest in the history of mathematics, will love Davis’s paper. I highly recommend it.