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Adventures of a Mathematician
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This autobiography of mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, one of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century, tells a story rich with amazingly prophetic speculations and peppered with lively anecdotes. As a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from on, Ulam helped to precipitate some of the most dramatic changes of the postwar world. He was among the first to use and advocate computers for scientific research, originated ideas for the nuclear propulsion of space vehicles, and made fundamental contributions to many of today's most challenging mathematical projects. With his wide-ranging interests, Ulam never emphasized the importance of his contributions to the research that resulted in the hydrogen bomb.
Now Daniel Hirsch and William Mathews reveal the true story of Ulam's pivotal role in the making of the 'Super,' in their historical introduction to this behind-the-scenes look at the minds and ideas that ushered in the nuclear age. While the mathematical and scientific specifics of this book would probably be intimidating - if not overwhelming - to most readers, the author relates his life story with plenty of enjoyable and easily understood material regarding his personal and professional relationships with many of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
And perhaps most interesting was his willingness to frequently interrupt his own narrative to wonder about the nature of human memory, abstract thinking, scientific talen While the mathematical and scientific specifics of this book would probably be intimidating - if not overwhelming - to most readers, the author relates his life story with plenty of enjoyable and easily understood material regarding his personal and professional relationships with many of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
And perhaps most interesting was his willingness to frequently interrupt his own narrative to wonder about the nature of human memory, abstract thinking, scientific talent, and the mathematical mind versus the scientific mind.
As for the math and science, I struggled to recall what I had learned in college undergraduate courses and had to use the dictionary a few times to grasp the challenges and breakthroughs he enjoyed describing. The mathematics of sets and series were beyond my abilities of abstract thinking in college, and fortunately, when Ulam started to get into those topics, he tended to stop himself and dismiss the topic as beyond the scope of this book.
As with most of the biographies I've read of the brilliant minds that arose in Europe in early 20th century, I was most interested in how, in his youth, he found his avocation, or how it found him. I continue to be amazed at the superb educational opportunities then provided in continental Europe, but more so how quickly that system was destroyed by the Nazi regime and the mass exodus of many of the best minds to the United States.
Ulam has many stories to tell about how those Europeans came together on American campuses and en masse at Los Alamos. Some of his stories made me laugh out loud, especially ones involving jokes based on some estoric humor which he gladly explains. Beyond the fun and games, this book presents a good summary of the critical points in the development of abstract thinking during his lifetime up to In definitiva, un libro non all'altezza di quanto sperassi. One of the best of the Bomb Generation of physicists' autobiographies, right up there with Wigner's and superior to Teller's.
This was the great golden age of quantum physics and development of mathematical methods for physics, two fields Ulam was uniquely poised to exploit. Necessary reading for any nuclear buffs due to Ulam's primary role in thermonuclear development fission primary sparking radiation-driven ablation of a Li-D Lithium-Deuteride secondary is, after all, now known as the Tell One of the best of the Bomb Generation of physicists' autobiographies, right up there with Wigner's and superior to Teller's.
Necessary reading for any nuclear buffs due to Ulam's primary role in thermonuclear development fission primary sparking radiation-driven ablation of a Li-D Lithium-Deuteride secondary is, after all, now known as the Teller-Ulam method , and extraordinarily literate in that sense so associated with the Hungarian expatriates to boot. Adventures of a Mathematician is excerpted in The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics , which is a fine collection in and of itself.
Feb 07, Rebeca rated it liked it Shelves: science. Oct 04, Liedzeit rated it really liked it Shelves: auto-biography. Richtig spannend sind die Abenteuer zwar nicht, aber hochinteressant. Kleiner Philosoph der Mann. Besonders beeindruckend wie er von seiner Jugend in Polen berichtet, von irgendwelchen Leuten und dann immer lakonisch sagt Dec 03, Long Mai rated it really liked it. This is my first reading about a mathematician's autobiography. The book is good.
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The author is a great mathematician, and he depicted a real picture of famous mathematicians: Von Neumann, Einstein, Fermi, Dec 03, David rated it really liked it Shelves: mathematical-me , historical , nonfiction. Ulam didn't write this book; he dictated it. It was a good tactic for him, and the result is a book with a lot of personality. Ulam has long been a hero of mine, and he lived through a lot of interesting stories. Worth reading if you enjoy biography, even if you know nothing of mathematics.
Oct 19, Proteinbased rated it really liked it. Interesting commentary on the manhattan project and many great minds of the 2oth century. Sep 03, Ed Boyno rated it really liked it Shelves: biography. A readable autobiography of a distinguished mathematician. I enjoyed his insights into the mathematical process as well as his account of the Manhattan Project. Feb 04, Mike rated it liked it.
Not as compelling as Feynman, but another thought provoking autobiography from someone who was attached to the Manhattan Project though this is about his whole life, not just that. Nov 08, James deBoer rated it liked it. I really enjoyed reading this book, it made me realize that life is much longer than it seems. However, it lost my interest about halfway through when he got to Los Alamos , so only 3 stars. Kevin rated it liked it Mar 01, Dec 05, Thai Son rated it really liked it Shelves: biographical , math-and-sciences. His last chapter, reflecting on mathematics and science, leaves a lot of food for thought.
Yuri Vishnevsky rated it it was amazing Dec 09, Andrew Lesniewski rated it it was amazing Jan 02, Ivan rated it liked it Jun 07, Dylan De rated it really liked it Jan 26, Alm Wilson rated it really liked it Nov 08, Sofia rated it it was amazing Jul 08, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.source
Adventures of a Mathematician | Mathematical Association of America
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