The genius of Steven Strogatz–and of the New York Times

When Steven Jobs passed away, millions of people genuinely mourned. One reason we mourned flowed from the tangible way Jobs actually earned his billions. He originated genuinely valuable products that tangibly improved our lives—for which we were willing to pay handsomely. In a world of 9/11 security charges, rip-off wireless calling plans, and more, we rarely get to feel that way when we spend our money.

I feel the same positive vibe about the New York Times and One doesn’t stop to ponder this too often. There is no better newspaper or news website around. The Times website includes many gems that go beyond the expected fare on the budget deficit or Iranian warheads.

Consider the compilation of columns by Cornell applied mathematician Steven Strogatz. Strogatz shows what a master expositor can do with ostensibly basic topics such as numbers and subtraction to forbidding ones such as complex numbers, differential and integral calculus, and group theory.

There’s no reason anyone who contemplates the finer points of the individual mandate can’t learn the basics of these subjects. Only we marinate in a powerful, toxic pop culture that is basically innumerate, and thus stupider than it should be. Fight the power by reading a math book. Here’s a nice one. Strogatz has another one coming out in a few months called the Joy of X. Not a bad place to start.

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