Chases and Escapes: The Mathematics of Pursuit and Evasion

By Paul J. Nahin | Go to book overview

What You Need to Know
to Read This Book (and How
I Learned What I Needed to
Know to Write It)

If you have had the usual first two years of undergraduate mathematics taken by all mathematics, engineering, and physical science students (calculus and ordinary differential equations) then you are good-to-go for what follows. Geometry and trigonometry are often used, too, of course, but if you understand what a differential equation is then I think I can safely assume that the Pythagorean theorem and the law of cosines will not trip you up. Differential equations are the signature mathematics of this book (although we will use a computer a lot, too, and in one section even some very elementary probability arguments as well). If you can get your hands on it, look up the science fantasy short story “Those Who Can, Do” by Bob Kurosaka, which appeared in the January 1965 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine (it was reprinted in The Year’s Best SF: 11th Annual Edition, Delacorte 1966, Judith Merril, editor). Kurosaka — who was then an instructor in mathematics at Massachusetts Bay Community College — said he wrote his story in response to a student’s challenge one day in his differential equations class, demanding to know “What’s this stuff good for anyway?” The rest of this book should provide you with numerous answers to that question (which I heard at least a thousand times myself during thirty-one years of college teaching at the University of New

-xxvii-

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