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Next Book for ODU's Adam: 'X and the City'

John Adam

Old Dominion University mathematician John Adam has been known to have some fun with numbers. He won the state's top award for university professors in 2007, largely because of his reputation for figuring ways to make math interesting to students. A year later came a book he co-authored called "Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin."

So it should come as no surprise that his next book will be called "X and the City."

The book is designed to answer the question: What has mathematics to say about life in the city? Adam's answer: More than you expect.

"Mathematics helps us understand how cities and their populations grow - both for people and bedbugs," he says. "Or how traffic moves, or doesn't, or how air pollution spreads. This book discusses these topics and many others in short bites, and anyone with a background in basic calculus should find it easily digestible."

Adam says that after the publication of his "A Mathematical Nature Walk" (2009, Princeton University Press) his editor suggested that he write a book that might be called "A Mathematical City Walk."

"My first reaction was somewhat negative, as I am a country boy at heart, and have always been more interested in the modeling of natural patterns in the world around us than manmade ones. Nevertheless, the idea grew on me, especially since I realized that many of my favorite nature topics, such as rainbows and ice crystal halos, can have very different manifestations in the city."

Adam says the "X" of the new book's title is there because "x" is an archetype of mathematical problem solving - such as in "find x." He believes the title will be "catchy," but acknowledges that some people may order it thinking it's about something other than mathematics. In that case, he adds, "there would be a lot of returns."

The contract for the book, the full title of which is "X and the City: Modeling Aspects of Urban Life," was agreed upon by Adam and Princeton University Press earlier this month. The book will be released early next year.

Adam is professor of mathematics at ODU and his research interests are currently associated with theoretical problems in meteorological optics. He is also a nature photographer who contributes to the Earth Science Picture of the Day website (http://epod.usra.edu). In addition to "Guesstimation" and "A Mathematical Nature Walk," he is also the author of "Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World."

In 2007 he won an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

This article was posted on: July 25, 2011

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