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The Mathematical Mechanic by Mark Levi

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INTRODUCTION

IT SO HAPPENS THAT ONE OFTHE GREATEST MATHEMATICALDISCOVERIES OF ALL TIMESWAS GUIDED BY PHYSICALINTUITION.

—GEORGE POLYA, ONARCHIMEDESDISCOVERY OFINTEGRAL CALCULUS

1.1 Math versus Physics

Back in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, our undergraduate class—about forty mathematics and physics sophomores—was drafted for a summer job in the countryside. Our job included mixing concrete and constructing silos on one of the collective farms. My friend Anatole and I were detailed to shovel gravel. The finals were just behind us and we felt free (as free as one could feel in the circumstances). Anatole’s major was physics; mine was mathematics. Like the fans of two rival teams, each of us tried to convince the other that his field ...

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