Calculating the Cosmos

How Mathematics Unveils the Universe


By Ian Stewart

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A prize-winning popular science writer uses mathematical modeling to explain the cosmos.

In Calculating the Cosmos, Ian Stewart presents an exhilarating guide to the cosmos, from our solar system to the entire universe. He describes the architecture of space and time, dark matter and dark energy, how galaxies form, why stars implode, how everything began, and how it’s all going to end. He considers parallel universes, the fine-tuning of the cosmos for life, what forms extraterrestrial life might take, and the likelihood of life on Earth being snuffed out by an asteroid.
Beginning with the Babylonian integration of mathematics into the study of astronomy and cosmology, Stewart traces the evolution of our understanding of the cosmos: How Kepler’s laws of planetary motion led Newton to formulate his theory of gravity. How, two centuries later, tiny irregularities in the motion of Mars inspired Einstein to devise his general theory of relativity. How, eighty years ago, the discovery that the universe is expanding led to the development of the Big Bang theory of its origins. How single-point origin and expansion led cosmologists to theorize new components of the universe, such as inflation, dark matter, and dark energy. But does inflation explain the structure of today’s universe? Does dark matter actually exist? Could a scientific revolution that will challenge the long-held scientific orthodoxy and once again transform our understanding of the universe be on the way? In an exciting and engaging style, Calculating the Cosmos is a mathematical quest through the intricate realms of astronomy and cosmology.
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  • "[Stewart] shows that he is not only a polymath in the sense that he is a master of all fields of mathematics, but also in his comprehension of physics, astronomy, and cosmology...[In Calculating the Cosmos] he effectively shows that time and technology will evolve ever better calculations of the cosmos."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "In Calculating the Cosmos Ian Stewart elegantly reviews the uncanny effectiveness of mathematics in explaining the universe.... Mr. Stewart beautifully describes how Newton's laws can still produce surprising results."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "Ian Stewart covers the long story of our beloved cosmos wearing mathematical glasses, and we can only be thankful that he has been our guide in this journey."
    Marco Moriconi,
  • "A fascinating tour, seamlessly spliced and historically contextualized."
  • "Stewart's wry sense of humor adds to this informative yet entertaining read.... Highly recommended for science readers who are up for a challenge."
    Library Journal
  • "Like most of Stewart's books, this one has much to recommend it."
    Mark Hunacek, MAA Reviews
  • "In his accessible and engaging style, Stewart uses math to describe the architecture of space and time; dark matter and dark energy; how galaxies, stars, and planets form; why stars implode; how everything began; and how it's all going to end."
    Publishers Weekly, Fall Announcements
  • "In Calculating the Cosmos, Ian Stewart offers readers a marvelous, behind-the-scenes look, from a mathematician's perspective, at how science is able to perform its magic. With compelling, crystal-clear prose, laced with delightful analogies, Stewart brings the calculations behind astronomy and other scientific fields to life. With Stewart's excellent guide to the cosmos in hand, everything does compute--splendidly adding up to a fun, fascinating read."
    Paul Halpern, author of Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat

On Sale
May 15, 2018
Page Count
352 pages
Basic Books

Ian Stewart

About the Author

Ian Stewart is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. He is the accessible and successful (and prolific) author of numerous Basic books on mathematics including, most recently, Calculating the Cosmos. Stewart is also a regular research visitor at the University of Houston, the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications in Minneapolis, and the Santa Fe Institute. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001. His writing has appeared in New Scientist, Discover, Scientific American, and many newspapers in the U.K. and U.S. He lives in Coventry, England.

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