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How Long Is a Piece of String? Paperback – 28 Jul 2003


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How Long Is a Piece of String? + Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life + How Many Socks Make a Pair?: Surprisingly Interesting Everyday Maths
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Product details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Portico; New Ed edition (28 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861056257
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861056252
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

""It is rare for a book about mathematics to be as engaging as this." " --New Scientist

About the Author

Rob Eastaway is a writer, speaker and consultant. His books include the bestselling What is a Googly? (9781861056290) and Why Do Buses Come In Threes? (9781861058621). He jointly devised the system now used to officially rank international cricketers and lives in London, where he is a keen weekend cricketer and occasional golfer.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In a book about everyday maths, what better place to start than the mathematics of the day itself, and of Monday in particular? Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 16 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback
It's an interesting book which I am enjoying reading. My criticism is that it is absolutely riddled with typos. It appears to have been typeset by an inefficient text recognition software, so there are literally dozens (no - probably hundreds) of incredibly irritating mistakes that should have been picked up. A few examples from the chapter on taxi meters: 372 minutes instead of 3 1/2 minutes; 5'A miles per hour instead of 5 1/3 miles per hour; "30 cents per 90 seconds ($1.2 per hour)" (really?!); etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. Some of the illustrations are in the wrong places, and some of them don't match the words (they've got into a right mess illustrating the prize values on Who Wants to be a Millionaire). It's really dreadful. As for page references: EVERY SINGLE PAGE REFERENCE IN THE BOOK IS WRONG - including the index!! They seem to have taken an earlier edition, reset it into a different number of pages, but kept the same page references. For example on page 43 you are referred to an illustration on page 32...except that it is actually on page 39. Look up "Quidditch" in the index and it directs you to page 180...but you won't find it there. I got bored looking, so I have no idea which page it is actually on.

My edition is by Portico, which is said to be an imprint of Anova Books Company Ltd. The red cover is identical to that shown at the time of writing on the Amazon advert. If you, gentle reader, work for Portico, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you are Rob Eastaway or Jeremy Wyndham, you should sack your publisher.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on 25 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
If you have a couple of hours to spare and are intrigued by apparently simple problems that turn out to be more complex than they seem, then Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham's book How Long Is A Piece Of String? would be an engaging way to fill the time. This is a carefully constructed book, with each of its sixteen chapters occupying about ten pages. There is just enough space to introduce an idea, pose a couple of questions and then deliver suitable solutions. The style is a little polemical, since there is not much space for the reader to investigate. But overall the material is well thought out and offers one or two surprising ideas.

Each chapter poses a question. How Long Is a Piece Of String, Am I Being Taken For A Ride, What Makes A Hit Single, Is It A Fake are just a few examples. In Am I Being Taken For A Ride the authors explain the logic of the taxi fare. It's ironic that as the chapters go by they themselves have something of the air of a driver eyeing the customer in the back with an associated, "And another thing..."

The authors consider chance in game shows alongside how soon a drunk will fall into the ditch. Their analysis of how predictable sporting contests might be might itself also explain why I gave up watching tennis decades ago. They examine fractals and make a tree and then conclude that numbers quite often start with one. You may find this last revelation surprising. I did.

All right, it's populist stuff, but there is enough mathematics to keep the specialist interested for a couple of hours. The book is strangely but usefully illustrated and some of its explanations are extremely well presented. It's undoubtedly a worthwhile read. Oh, and How Long Is A Piece OF String? Well, as Richard Feynman famously answered, it depends on the length of your ruler.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 12 May 2009
Format: Paperback
The sequel to another book by the same authors, Why do buses come in threes?, this book is not quite as strong as its predecessor, but it still has plenty of interest.

The first chapter discusses the calendar and how it came about, including why there are seven days in a week, how those days got their names and why there are twelve months in a year, though it omits to mention how those months got their names. The second chapter is devoted to conmen, illustrating some of the tricks they use to deprive people of their money. Sadly, there will always be plenty of gullible people around who are eager to part with their money if they delude themselves that they are going to get rich quickly. The third chapter is about what makes a hit single. I expected that this would provide an analysis of the way charts are compiled, but it's actually an analysis of musical patterns, though the authors acknowledge that formulaic music id dull.

Other chapters describe how to pack things as tightly as possible, how to make decisions that give the best chance of success, whether it is quicker to use the stairs or wait for a lift, weather forecasting (in my experience, this is much better than it was twenty or thirty years ago), epidemics, taximeters, meeting partners, detecting fraud, sporting underdogs, bad karaoke singers, proving things beyond doubt and spin doctors. There's also the chapter that gives the book its title, in which the authors explain that measuring string isn't always as easy as it may seem.

As with the previous book, this one is great fun but I noticed that political voting wasn't featured in either book.
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