The Biggest Ideas in Math and Science: Quanta Magazine Releases Two Books

The magazine has released two collections of its award-winning reporting: "Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire" and "The Prime Number Conspiracy."

Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation, has published two new books that untangle the mysteries of the universe and map the routes of mathematical exploration. The magazine, under editor-in-chief Thomas Lin, offers in-depth coverage of today’s challenging, speculative, cutting-edge science. Quanta communicates science by taking it seriously, wrestling with difficult concepts and explaining them clearly in a way that speaks to our innate curiosity about our world and ourselves.

The two books, published by MIT Press, take “readers on breathtaking intellectual journeys to the bleeding edge of discovery strapped to the narrative rocket of humanity’s never-ending pursuit of knowledge,” Lin writes in the introduction.

In the title article from “Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire,” the two protagonists grapple with gravitational forces and possible spaghettification or a massive wall of fire when one of them jumps into a black hole. That’s only the beginning of the scientific journey. In addition to investigating black holes, readers engage with quantum entanglement and artificial intelligence and ponder whether the universe is actually impossible. One article considers the evolutionary benefits of loneliness, and another reflects on our enormous human skulls and the Brain Boom. These articles from Quanta give us a front-row seat to scientific discovery.

“’Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire’ takes the reader on one fascinating adventure, an exploration of the universe with all its mystery and wonder and starlit dazzle, told by some of the best science writers working today,” says Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist and author of “The Poison Squad.”

In “The Prime Number Conspiracy,” readers explore the latest breakthroughs in understanding our mathematical universe. As James Gleick, the best-selling author of “Chaos,” puts it in the foreword, “inspiration strikes willy-nilly.” A bus stop inspires thoughts on quantum chaotic systems, while a statistician has a “bathroom sink epiphany” and discovers the key to solving the Gaussian correlation inequality. Both volumes will offer the reader invaluable insight into the latest fascinating discoveries produced by the science and math communities.

“Mathematics has rarely seemed as vibrant and alive — and as thrilling — as it does in these pages,” says Steven Strogatz, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University and author of “The Joy of x.” “When the best writers explain the best mathematics, it’s a wonder to behold. These are stories of drama, passion, longing and inspiration. They’re also a lot of fun to read.”

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