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Almost since we climbed down out of the trees humanity has been trying to define the universe and our place in it. Gradually we developed methods by which we could codify and analyze the information at our disposal in order to formulate answers. At first these took the form of simplistic superstitions based on a myriad of belief systems and myths. However, as the years passed and our knowledge grew, we developed methods which allowed us to come up with answers based on facts. This in turn created a body of information common to all humanity independent of individual belief systems. It hasn t always been smooth sailing, especially when discoveries have flown in the face of accepted wisdom or contradicted the teachings of powerful religious bodies. For some reason people are more afraid of rational explanations and scientific facts than they are of mysticism and unfounded beliefs. Even today religious fanatics of many faiths not only refuse to accept proven scientific theories, but are insisting their individual beliefs be given equal status in spite of there being no proof as to their validity. One of the reasons they re able to get away with this is the majority of people know almost nothing about the various rational means used to define the universe. For some reason most of us see these areas of study as completely inaccessible and assume they can only be understood by a few people. A new series of books by British science author Tom Jackson, The Ponderables goes a long way towards refuting that sentiment. In fact, judging by the first three volumes, The Elements: An Illustrated History of the Periodic Table, Mathematics: An Illustrated History of Numbers and The Universe: An Illustrated History of Astronomy, this series will not only help demystify science it will remind people of just what an amazing and magical world we live in. Each of the three books shows how our awareness and knowledge of its subject matter has developed over the course of human history. However, instead of merely recounting dry facts and figures Jackson manages to bring the individuals responsible for some of the world s great scientific breakthroughs to life by not only recounting their discoveries but telling us the story behind them. Divided up into a hundred great milestones in each area s history we are able to witness the growth of awareness and knowledge from the time of ancient Greece to the present day. Each book also comes with a handy dandy 12-page pull out timeline that can be used for quick reference. On the reverse side you ll find 12 pages of information specific to each subject. Seasonal star charts in The Universe, great mathematical enigmas in Mathematics and a chart of elements in their atomic order in The Elements Aside from talking about the various individuals and their discoveries, each section not only contains illustrations which help to explain their significance, Jackson also includes explanatory notes ensuring readers won t have any trouble understanding what s being discussed. While this is not some simplistic science made easy type of book, Jackson has the ability to make the material accessible and interesting. Not being a person with a significant background in the sciences I was pleased to see he doesn t make any assumptions about his reader s knowledge. Yet at the same time not once do you have the feeling that he s talking down to you. It s like having a well educated and personable tour guide through the history of each subject. --Richard Marcus 2nd Dec 2012Reseña del editor:
Here is the essential guide to mathematics, an authoritative reference book and timeline that explores the work of history's greatest mathematicians. From the teasing genius of Pierre de Fermat, who said he knew the answers but rarely gave them up, to the fractal pattern discovered by Waclaw Sierpinski now used to plan the route a mailman takes, here are 100 landmark moments in this intensely rigorous discipline, seen through the eyes of the people who lived them. Includes a removable fold-out concertina neatly housed in the back of the book. This fold-out provides a 12-page Timeline History of Mathematics that embeds the story in historical context and shows Who Did What When at a glance.
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