Book Review of the Month

Java Number Cruncher: The Java Programmer's Guide to Numerical Computing
Ronald Mak
At one time or another, most of us will likely have to write code performing some amount of numerical computation beyond simple integer arithmetic. As many of us are neither mathematicians nor intimately familiar with the bit gymnastics our machines must perform in order to manipulate numbers, we can get ourselves into trouble if we're not careful. Luckily, "Java Number Cruncher" comes to the rescue.

This book is an introduction to numerical computing using Java providing "non-theoretical explanations of practical numerical algorithms." While this sounds like heady stuff, freshman level calculus should be sufficient to get the most out of this text.

The first three chapters are amazingly useful, and worth the price of admission alone. Mak does a fine job explaining in simple terms the pitfalls of even routine integer and floating-point calculations, and how to mitigate these problems. Along the way the reader learns the details of how Java represents numbers and why good math goes bad. The remainder of the book covers iterative computations, matrix operations, and several "fun" topics, including fractals and random number generation.

The author conveys his excitement for the subject in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand manner. Examples in Java clearly demonstrate the topics covered. Some may not like that the complete source is in-line with the text, but this is subjective. Overall, I found this book educational, interesting, and quite enjoyable to read.

(Jason Menard - Bartender, May 2003)
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