Famous mathematical constants include the ratio of circular circumference to diameter, pi=3.14 …, and the natural logarithmic base, e=2.178 … Students and professionals usually can name at most a few others, but there are many more buried in the literature and awaiting discovery. How do such constants arise, and why are they important? Here Steven Finch provides 136 essays, each devoted to a mathematical constant or a class of constants, from the well known to the highly exotic. Topics covered include the statistics of continued fractions, chaos in nonlinear systems, prime numbers, sum-free sets, isoperimetric problems, approximation theory, self-avoiding walks and the Ising model (from statistical physics), binary and digital search trees (from theoretical computer science), the Prouhet-Thue-Morse sequence, complex analysis, geometric probability and the traveling salesman problem. This book will be helpful both to readers seeking information about a specific constant, and to readers who desire a panoramic view of all constants coming from a particular field, for example combinatorial enumeration or geometric optimization. Unsolved problems appear virtually everywhere as well. This is an outstanding scholarly attempt to bring together all significant mathematical constants in one place.
In The Press
'I think all mathematicians should own this book … there are sections where the author conveys admirably his excitement over some unexpected and beautiful sequence of ideas. I pay the author the earnest compliment of stating that nearly every page in the book is an adventure …'. The Mathematical Intelligencer