Peter S. Rudman — How Mathematics Happened: The First 50000 Years — Prometheus Books, 2006, 314 pp. ISBN 978-1-59102-477-4
(Buy at Amazon.com)
What first got me interested in this book is the “50000 years” part. I was preparing lectures notes for my course on discrete mathematics and I wanted my students to have an idea of what prehistoric maths might have been, say, 20000 years ago. Unfortunately, you wont learn much about this in this book
The book does hint about what mathematics might have been in hunter-gatherer times, and how it might have affected later developments. But that lasts for about a chapter or so, and the remainder is devoted to historical mathematics: Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, and Classical Greek. All kinds of numerical algorithms are covered, presented in great detail, making the book more technical than historical. Some part are speculative as the historical record is incomplete at best, but it is speculative in the best way possible, with every assumption backed by an actual historical observation.
I have been absurdly busy lately and I cannot keep with the pace of posting one new post per week. Now that the semester’s over, I must take advantage of the few blessed months of summer to further my research, and the blog isn’t top priority. But, rest assured, I will be back in september to resume the once-a-week post schedule.
Until then, enjoy your summer.
M. D. M. M*** — Blasons, Poésies anciennes des XV et XVImes Siècles, extraites de différens auteurs imprimés et manuscrits, nouvelle édition, augmentée d’un glossaire des mors hors d’usage — Paris, Gillemot et Nicolle, 1809
This book was scanned with the help of Christine Arsenault at the Centre Joseph Charles Taché, a research center on the literary history of Canada.
last week, we saw that we could use a (supposed) efficient machine-specific instruction to derive good bounds (but not very tight) to help binary search-based and Newton-based square root extraction algorithms go faster. Last week, we saw that the technique did lead to fewer iterations in both algorithms.
Now, does the reduced number of iterations translate into actual, machine speed-up?
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