What We Are Reading Today: Taming the Unknown

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Updated 13 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Taming the Unknown

Edited by Victor J.Katz and Karen Hunger Parshall

What is algebra? For some, it is an abstract language of x’s and y’s. For mathematics majors and professional mathematicians, it is a world of axiomatically defined constructs like groups, rings, and fields.

Taming the Unknown considers how these two seemingly different types of algebra evolved and how they relate. Victor Katz and Karen Parshall explore the history of algebra, from its roots in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, China, and India, through its development in the medieval Islamic world and medieval and early modern Europe, to its modern form in the early 20th century.

Defining algebra originally as a collection of techniques for determining unknowns, the authors trace the development of these techniques from geometric beginnings in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and classical Greece.

They show how similar problems were tackled in Alexandrian Greece, in China, and in India, then look at how medieval Islamic scholars shifted to an algorithmic stage, which was further developed by medieval and early modern European mathematicians.

With the introduction of a flexible and operative symbolism in the 16th and 17th centuries, algebra entered into a dynamic period characterized by the analytic geometry that could evaluate curves represented by equations in two variables, thereby solving problems in the physics of motion.

This new symbolism freed mathematicians to study equations of degrees higher than two and three, ultimately leading to the present abstract era.


What We Are Reading Today: Fallout

Updated 08 August 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Fallout

Author: Lesley M. M. Blume

New York Times bestselling author Lesley M.M. Blume reveals how one courageous American reporter uncovered one of the deadliest cover-ups of the 20th century — the true effects of the atom bomb — potentially saving millions of lives.
Released on the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Fallout is an engrossing detective story, as well as an important piece of hidden history that shows how one heroic scoop saved — and can still save — the world.
On the bright clear morning of Aug. 6, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, immediately killing 70,000 people, and so grievously crushing, burning and irradiating another 50,000 that they too soon died.
Blume, a tireless researcher and beautiful writer, moves through her narrative with seeming effortlessness — a trick that belies the skill and hard labor required to produce such prose.
Knowing what we know today about the nuclear bomb and its devastating consequences, it’s so amazing to read this thoroughly researched report on the man who, against all odds, exposed to the world the true damage of the bomb when it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.