A bestselling author tries to rehabillitate a much-maligned field.
What's the Use? asks why there is such a vast gulf between public perceptions of mathematics and reality. It shows how mathematics is vital, often in surprising ways, behind the scenes of daily life. How politicians pick their voters. How an absurd little puzzle solved 300 years ago leads to efficient methods for kidney transplants. How an Irish mathematician's obsession with a new number system improves special effects in movies and computer games. How SatNav relies on at least six mathematical techniques. And how a bizarre, infinitely wiggly curve, helps to optimise deliveries to your door.
Ian Stewart is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Warwick and the author of the bestseller Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematics Curiosities. His recent books include Do Dice Play God?, Significant Figures, Incredible Numbers, Seventeen Equations that Changed the World, Professor Stewart's Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries and Calculating the Cosmos (all published by Profile). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society.