In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the great numbers that define our world. Some numbers, like the speed of light and absolute zero, are well known to the general public. Others, such as Boltzmann's constant and the Chandrasekhar limit, are known only to those with a deep knowledge of science. But these numbers do far more than the average person might dare to imagine: they tell us how this world began, the way we were and the way we are, and what the future holds.
Stein reveals the manner in which certain cosmic numbers came to light, the dramatis personae involved, and cutting-edge developments associated with these numbers. Many are the cornerstones of grand discoveries and theories. They represent landmarks in the history of intellectual achievement. And the stories of these numbers offer a novel understanding of physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Much more than a gee-whiz collection, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important – both to scientists and to the rest of us.
James D. Stein is a past member of the Institute of Advanced Studies and is currently a Professor of Mathematics at California State University (Long Beach). His list of publications is extensive and includes: How to Shoot from the Hip Without Getting Shot in the Foot (with Herbert L. Stone and Charles V. Harlow); How Math Explains the World (a Scientific American Book Club selection); The Right Decision (also a Scientific American Book Club selection); and How Math Can Save Your Life. He has been a guest blogger for Psychology Today and his work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times.