Pluses and Minuses

Stefan Buijsman

Pluses and Minuses
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Pluses and Minuses

Stefan Buijsman

You look up from your phone for a moment to order an espresso. It’s made with one of those large stainless-steel coffee makers that heats the water until it’s precisely the right temperature. It keeps track of how fast the water warms up and uses that to calculate whether it needs to apply more or less heat, until the perfect temperature is attained. You’re not aware of any of it, but right in front of your nose those formulae that your maths teacher talked about are being used to make your cup of coffee.

Thousands of years ago, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia became the first humans to use numbers. Since then, mathematics has become an unstoppable force. It’s behind almost everything, from search engines to cruise control, from coffee-makers to timetables. But now that we hardly ever need to do arithmetic, how relevant is mathematics to everyday life?

Drawing on examples within the interconnected fields of philosophy, psychology and history, Dr Stefan Buijsman explores the role mathematics plays in the modern world.     

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