HT Picks; New Reads

Published on Oct 21, 2022 07:35 PM IST

The reading list this week includes a book on fundamental mathematical concepts, a new look at how climate change is recasting the Himalayas, and a volume on the numerous ordinary people who stood up to the British during the freedom struggle

A book on fundamental mathematical concepts, another on the Himalayas, and a third on the many ordinary folk who took part in the struggle for freedom. (HT Team)
A book on fundamental mathematical concepts, another on the Himalayas, and a third on the many ordinary folk who took part in the struggle for freedom. (HT Team)
ByHT Team

How to Build the Universe Using Only Maths

384pp, ₹799; Bloomsbury (Looking at fundamental mathematical concepts)
384pp, ₹799; Bloomsbury (Looking at fundamental mathematical concepts)

An engaging and imaginative tour through the fundamental mathematical concepts ― from arithmetic to infinity ― that form the building blocks of our universe.

Our universe has multiple origin stories, from religious creation myths to the Big Bang of scientists. But if we leave those behind and start from nothing ― no matter, no cosmos, not even empty space ― could we create a universe using only math? Irreverent, richly illustrated, and boundlessly creative, The Big Bang of Numbers invites us to try.

In this new mathematical origin story, mathematician and novelist Manil Suri creates a natural progression of ideas needed to design our world, starting with numbers and continuing through geometry, algebra, and beyond. He reveals the secret lives of real and imaginary numbers, teaches them to play abstract games with real-world applications, discovers unexpected patterns that connect humble life forms to enormous galaxies, and explores mathematical underpinnings for randomness and beauty. With evocative examples ranging from multidimensional crochet to the Mona Lisa’s asymmetrical smile, as well as ingenious storytelling that helps illuminate complex concepts like infinity and relativity, The Big Bang of Numbers charts a playful, inventive course to existence. Mathematics, Suri shows, might best be understood not as something we invent to explain Nature, but as the source of all creation, whose directives Nature tries to obey as best she can.

Offering both striking new perspectives for math aficionados and an accessible introduction for anyone daunted by calculation, The Big Bang of Numbers proves that we can all fall in love with math.*

Exploring the Roof of the World

432pp, ₹1250; Bloomsbury (The Himalayas have drawn an illustrious succession of admirers)
432pp, ₹1250; Bloomsbury (The Himalayas have drawn an illustrious succession of admirers)

A groundbreaking new look at the Himalayas and how climate change is re-casting one of the world’s most unique geophysical, historical, environmental, and social regions.

More rugged and elevated than any other zone on earth, the Himalayas embrace all of Tibet, plus six of the world’s eight major mountain ranges and nearly all its highest peaks. It contains around 50,000 glaciers and the most extensive permafrost outside the polar region. 35% of the global population depends on the freshwater of the Himalayas for crop-irrigation, protein, and, increasingly, hydro-power. Over an area nearly as big as Europe, the population is scattered, often nomadic and always sparse. Many languages are spoken, some are written, and few are related. Religious allegiances are equally diverse. The region is also politically fragmented, its borders belonging to multiple nations with no unity in how to address the risks posed by the environment of the Himalayas, including a volatile, near-tropical latitude in which temperatures climb from sub-zero at night to 80°F by day.

The Himalayas have drawn an illustrious succession of admirers, from explorers, surveyors, and sportsmen, to botanists and zoologists, ethnologists and geologists, missionaries and mountaineers. It now sits seismically unstable, as tectonic plates continue to shift and the region remains gridlocked in a global debate surrounding climate change. Himalaya is historian John Keay’s striking case for this spectacular but endangered corner of the planet as one if its most essential wonders. Without an other-worldly ethos and respect for its confounding, utterly fascinating features, John argues, Himalaya will soon cease to exist.*

Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom

256pp, ₹499; Penguin (Millions of ordinary people-farmers, labourers, homemakers, forest produce gatherers, artisans and others - stood up to the British)
256pp, ₹499; Penguin (Millions of ordinary people-farmers, labourers, homemakers, forest produce gatherers, artisans and others - stood up to the British)

So who really spearheaded India’s Freedom Struggle? Millions of ordinary people ― farmers, labourers, homemakers, forest produce gatherers, artisans and others ― stood up to the British. People who never went on to be ministers, governors, presidents, or hold other high public office.

They had this in common: their opposition to Empire was uncompromising.

In The Last Heroes, these footsoldiers of Indian freedom tell us their stories. The men, women and children featured in this book are adivasis, dalits, OBCs, brahmins, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They hail from different regions, speak different languages and include atheists and believers, Leftists, Gandhians and Ambedkarites.

The people featured pose the intriguing question: What is freedom? They saw that as going beyond Independence. And almost all of them continued their fight for freedoms long after 1947.

The post-1947 generations need their stories.

To learn what they understood. That freedom and independence are not the same thing. And to learn to make those come together.*

All text from promotional material.

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