Our aim in writing the original edition of Numerical Recipes was to provide a
book that combined general discussion, analytical mathematics, algorithmics, and
actual working programs. The success of the first edition puts us now in a difficult,
though hardly unenviable, position. We wanted, then and now, to write a book
that is informal, fearlessly editorial, unesoteric, and above all useful. There is a
danger that, if we are not careful, we might produce a second edition that is weighty,
balanced, scholarly, and boring.
It is a mixed blessing that we know more now than we did six years ago. Then,
we were making educated guesses, based on existing literature and our own research,
about which numerical techniqueswere themost important and robust. Now, we have
the benefit of direct feedback froma large reader community. Letters to our alter-ego
enterprise, Numerical Recipes Software, are in the thousands per year. (Please, don’t
telephone us.) Our post office box has become a magnet for letters pointing out
that we have omitted some particular technique, well known to be important in a
particular field of science or engineering. We value such letters, and digest them
carefully, especially when they point us to specific references in the literature.
The inevitable result of this input is that this Second Edition of Numerical
Recipes is substantially larger than its predecessor, in fact about 50% larger both in
words and number of included programs (the latter now numbering well over 300).
“Don’t let the book grow in size,” is the advice that we received from several wise
colleagues. We have tried to follow the intended spirit of that advice, even as we
violate the letter of it. We have not lengthened, or increased in difficulty, the book’s
principal discussions of mainstream topics. Many new topics are presented at this
same accessible level. Some topics, both from the earlier edition and new to this
one, are now set in smaller type that labels them as being “advanced.” The reader
who ignores such advanced sections completely will not, we think, find any lack of
continuity in the shorter volume that results.