When least is best, by Paul Nahin – a review
NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.
For my review of Nahin’s superb book “How to fall slower than gravity”, see here.
While not often taught as a topic with such wide-ranging uses in maths classes, finding the maxima or minima of functions is one of the most important areas in all of applied mathematics. I say this as a practitioner of machine learning, where most of what we do is trying to find the minimum of a loss function, and as a physicist where in quantum field theory, the dynamical equations come from trying to extremise an action. While these areas aren’t discussed in the book (the closest it gets is looking at the classical Euler-Lagrange problem), to get students to think about how useful it is to find the maxima and minima of a function is really a powerful thing.
Nahin takes on this challenge and succeeds in the same way that he succeeded in making the problems in the previous book of his that I reviewed both fascinating and easy to follow.…