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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quilt: And Other Intriguing Stories of Mathematical Physics » User review

The mathematics dominates the physics and the problems are excellent

  • Jul 9, 2010
The mathematics largely dominates the physics in this book, the problems vary in the level of their physics difficulty but the math level stays pretty constant. In nearly all cases, understanding integrals, some of which are complex, is necessary if you are to understand the solution. Generally speaking, the physics problems are understandable by anyone that has a fundamental understanding of the principles of physics. A strong course in high school physics would be adequate preparation.
Many of the problems have a tone of the absurd to them, yet that what makes them appealing. For example, section 10.3 describes how much energy it would take to blow up a planet, as the dreaded Death Star did in the first "Star Wars" movie. Another set of problems is based on the hollow Earth absurdity and Jules Verne's classic story "Journey to the Center of the Earth." The problem from which the title is derived is based on the tiling of a square region using only square pieces, which could be used to construct a quilt. It is transformed into a problem in electricity by making the quilt a plate of pieces of metal through which electricity will flow.
This book would be an ideal resource for a course in mathematical physics or engineering that is more informal. The problems are the type that students would truly have fun with and they are sufficiently challenging so that they are worthy of advanced students. Mathematics instructors with a physics background could also incorporate some of the problems into applied math courses. I know my students would have loved to see the problem of blowing up a planet worked out.

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About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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About this book


Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quiltis a great book for anyone interested in the connections between mathematics and physics. Along the way, Nahin, author of many popular math books, shares many historical anecdotes about the problems and the people who studied them. . . . A teacher of general physics or introductory calculus will find many interesting discussions that can be included in an introductory course.

Three examples of the mutual embrace --
Measuring gravity --
Feynman's infinite circuit --
Air drag--a mathematical view --
Air drag--a physical view --
Really long falls --
The Zeta function--the physics --
Ballistics--with no air drag (yet) --
Ballistics--with air drag --
Gravity and Newton --
Gravity far above the earth --
Gravity inside the earth --
Quilts & electricity --
Random walks --
Two more random walks --
Nearest neighbors --
One last random walk --
The big noise --
Electricity in the fourth dimension.
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Books, Mathematics, Mathematical Physics


ISBN-10: 0691135401
ISBN-13: 978-0691135403
Author: Paul J. Nahin
Genre: Science
Publisher: Princeton University Press
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