Thom Dunn's Reviews > Differential Equations for Dummies

Differential Equations for Dummies by Steven Holzner
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message 1: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I'd tend to also go to Jaime Escalante's books, except that I haven't seen any books, only documentaries. In his classroom, Escalante had a banner reading "Nobody has to make calculus easy, because calculus is already easy.", but this is somewhat misleading, because while calculus may be easy in itself, there has been a determined effort at obfuscation by mathematicians, based on the apparent assumption that if math isn't tedious and difficult, it isn't legitimate.

Let me know if this is readable and enjoyable. My mother has reported that she has lost a lot of her computational tricks due to her recent stroke, and I'd like to find sources to help her recover them.


message 2: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Valerie, I'm stumbling in the dark here. The book is conversational, but seems--to me anyway--to presume knowledge at many points. That said, it's a whole lot more fun than , say, the Wikipedia article on Diff. Equ., which I find incomprehensible, merely translating arcane language into other esoteric terms.


message 3: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I'm having the same problem with the book on Tesla's technical work. There's too much tendency to assume a familiarity with the state of the art at the time. But if you didn't KNOW that incandescent lights were resistant to self-induction, you're kind of left without a platform to stand on.

My understanding (though I never got past integral calculus in school, because the Math teacher at the school I was at left to attend to a medical emergency, and was never replaced) is that calculus is intended to deal with situations where there are limits that can only be approached closer and closer, but can't be reached (such as the speed of light). But I have to admit that I have notebooks full of equations that I wrote...and now can't read.


message 4: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Valerie wrote: "I'm having the same problem with the book on Tesla's technical work. There's too much tendency to assume a familiarity with the state of the art at the time. But if you didn't KNOW that incandesc..."

I remember a Chinese wall being erected every time we high school students (in the late 50s) even approached the Holy Shrine of the Calculus. Later I would read that Calculus is the mathematics of "things that are changing", like the speed of a falling body, bullet trajectories (famously) and rates of interest.


message 5: by Valerie (new)

Valerie It's also widely used for things like orbital dynamics. Which often makes it difficult to read articles in the Journal of The British Interplanetary Society, where you just have to take equations on faith if you don't understand the basics.

I once saw a fascinating interview with the woman who took all those photos of bouncing balls (the ones where you can see the ball at every point in the arc). She explained how she did it. I wish I could find books with that sort of thing in them.

I had a really good teacher of math in junior high (and a really bad one, so it averages out). She was reluctant to teach us shortcuts and tricks, because she said we should work that sort of thing out ourselves. But she did teach us things like combining numbers into tens when adding up long columns.

You might also find Consider A Spherical Cow useful. It's about estimating, which I always found difficult in school.


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