Infinite Powers

A brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus—how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.

Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven 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.

Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalized and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes “backwards” sometimes; how to make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn’t miss the moon; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.

As Strogatz proves, calculus is truly the language of the universe. By unveiling the principles of that language, Infinite Powers makes us marvel at the world anew.


Praise

  • In this tour de force, Steve Strogatz shares his love as well as his deep understanding of calculus and mathematics more generally. An elegant and ebullient book, Infinite Powers speaks to everyone, reminding us why mathematics matters in a practical sense, while all the time highlighting the cleverness and especially the beauty involved.
    Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Physics, Harvard University, and author of Warped Passages and Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs
  • If calculus is the language of the universe, then Steven Strogatz is its Homer. With verve, insight, and simplicity, he explains the deep ideas underlying one of humankind’s greatest intellectual achievements. Infinite Powers is an incalculable pleasure.
    — Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
  • Are you one of those people who always said you’d someday learn calculus? Well, someday is here, thanks to Steven Strogatz’s wide-ranging, humane, thoroughly readable take on one of the greatest ideas our species has ever produced.
    Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
  • This is a glorious book. Steven Strogatz manages to unmask the true hidden wonder and delightful simplicity of calculus. Infinite Powers is a master class in accessible math writing and a perfect read for anyone who feels like they never quite understood what all the fuss was about. It had me leaping for joy.
    Hannah Fry, author of Hello World
  • Warning: this book is dangerous. It will make you love mathematics. Even more, there is a nonzero risk it will turn you into a mathematician.
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, former derivatives trader and author of The Black Swan
  • This could be the most fascinating book I have ever read. If you have even the slightest curiosity about math and its role in this world, I implore you to read this amazing book. Every teacher, every student, and every citizen will be better for it.
    Jo Boaler, author of Mathematical Mindsets, professor of mathematics education, Stanford University, and co-founder of youcubed.org
  • Steven Strogatz is a world class mathematician and a world class science writer. With a light touch and razor-sharp clarity, he brilliantly filters his deep knowledge of calculus into an engaging epic that tells the remarkable story of a mathematical breakthrough that changed the world—and continues to do so.
    Alex Bellos, author of Here’s Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math
  • The world is a big thing made of an infinite number of infinitely small things. That’s the lesson of calculus, the most powerful mathematical technique ever invented. In this engaging book, Steven Strogatz illuminates the importance of calculus and explains its mysteries as only he can.
    Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture
  • Reading Infinite Powers, I was reminded why Steve Strogatz is, at present, the best mathematician among writers and the best writer among mathematicians.
    William Dunham, Bryn Mawr College, and author of Journey Through Genius and The Calculus Gallery
  • Infinite Powers is simple, lucid, amusing, informative, and a pleasure to read. If you want to know where calculus came from, how it works, what it’s good for, and where it’s going next, this is the book for you.
    Professor Ian Stewart, author of Significant Figures
  • A highly readable account of calculus and its modern applications—all done with the human touch.
    Dr. David Acheson, author of The Calculus Story
  • An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author’s love of mathematics.
    Kirkus
  • Far-ranging survey … clear and accessible … Strogatz successfully illuminates a notoriously complex topic and this work should enhance appreciation for the history behind its innovations.
    Publishers Weekly
 

The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned About Life While Corresponding About Math

The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. 

Read More

Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

The tendency to synchronize may be the most mysterious and pervasive drive in all of nature. It has intrigued some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Norbert Wiener, Brian Josephson, and Arthur Winfree.

At once elegant and riveting, Sync tells the story of the dawn of a new science. Steven Strogatz, a leading mathematician in the fields of chaos and complexity theory, explains how enormous systems can synchronize themselves, from the electrons in a superconductor to the pacemaker cells in our hearts. He shows that although these phenomena might seem unrelated on the surface, at a deeper level there is a connection, forged by the unifying power of mathematics.

* Translated into German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese

* Featured on Amazon's list of Customers' Favorites in science for 2003

* Selected as a Best Book of the Year by Discover magazine in 2003

* Won the Anomalist Award for the best science book of 2003

* The Korean edition was named “Best Science Book of 2005” by the Ministry of Science & Technology Korea, and received the “Best Science Book Award” given by the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics.

 

Praise

  • The most exciting new book of the spring . . . Masterful . . . A gem.”
    — Popular Science
  • A vivid, first-hand account of what it is like to be at the beginning of a scientific revolution.
    Focus
  • Strogatz has just written a book arguing that the universe is an orderly place marked by harmony and cooperation. In an era of war, terror, and chaos, his viewpoint sounds a bit curious. But if Sync is, well, out of sync with global news, it’s certainly in tune with the scientific world.
    Newsweek
  • Strogatz . . . is a first-rate storyteller and an even better teacher . . . Sync is a great read.
    Nature
  • Every now and then you come across a science book that’s just fun and amazing to read.
    Leader-Post (Regina)
  • Strogatz is a gifted and inspiring communicator whose book, Sync, offers a real sense of what it’s like to be at the beginning of Something Big.
    New Scientist
  • Sync is a wonderfully lucid and thoroughly entertaining story of the emerging science of synchrony. Steven Strogatz, a leading researcher and renowned teacher, takes the reader on a thrilling ride.
    Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University