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How Long Is a Piece of String? [Paperback]

Rob Eastaway , Jeremy Wyndham
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

28 July 2003
Why do weather forecasters get it wrong? What are the best tactics for playing "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and "The Weakest Link"? And what is the link between a tin of baked beans and a men's urinal? These and many other questions are answered in this book. It is for anyone wanting to remind themselves - or discover for the first time - that maths is relevant to almost everything we do. Dating, cooking, travelling by car, gambling and ranking sportsmen all have links with intriguing mathematical problems that are explained in this book. It reveals the secrets behind some of the best con tricks and the hidden workings of the taxi meter, and explains how epidemics start and stop.

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How Long Is a Piece of String? + Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life + 1089 and All That: A Journey into Mathematics
Price For All Three: 18.27

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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: 19.8 x 13.2 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


""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 to officially rankinternational 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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun 8 July 2002
By A Customer
It's amazing the amount of work that mathematicians have to do, to solve the problems of everyday life. This book explains the numbers behind the weather, bookmakers and dating agencies. Amongst all the calculations, it is comforting to know that often the lateral-thinking solutions are the best. For instance, lift-engineers have to know a lot of theory to keep their customers waiting for the least time, but the best solution was to put mirrors in front of the lifts, so that people didn't realise how long they were waiting as they were too busy preening themselves! Well worth buying for the clever inside information alone.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As a university maths teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the authors' previous "Why do buses come in threes", not only as a stimulating read but as an excellent source of interesting examples for my classes in mathematical modelling. The successor is just as good - indeed, I think it's even better. Topics include how to write a hit song, tactics for quiz show contestants, detecting fraud and how to reduce lift waiting times, and even for a voracious reader of popular maths books like me there were plenty of new ideas. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on how spin doctors present information. Very strongly recommended!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and funny! 2 Feb 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book out of curiosity - I've never been all that interested in maths, but some of the chapters looked interesting - like how best to play TV quiz shows, why the days of the week are called what they are, and so on.
The authors say that the main reason for including something in this book was that it had to keep them entertained down the pub - and I'd agree entirely!
It's funny and covers a wide choice of subjects, includes some puzzles (don't worry they include the answers too!), and even discusses how best to meet the love of your life (statistically speaking).
You don't need a degree in maths to get your head round it, the chapters are nice and short, all in all it's a very entertaining book. You will find yourself quoting it all over the place after you've read it!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The authors are badly let down by the publishers 16 Dec 2008
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining book 8 May 2003
I thought this was an excllent book - full of interesting real-life situations and the maths that you never knew underpinned them. I particularly liked the chapter on karaoke singers and the maths behind 'in-tune' or 'out of tune' music.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating, wide-ranging and entertaining 25 Mar 2003
By A Customer
As somebody who hasn't seriously touched any maths since my A level 20 years ago, I found this book a fascinating read. The chapters on music particularly interest me, and like other chapters they bring out ideas that I have not come across before. If you want complex maths, there are thousands of books that provide enough challenge - face it, you just have to look at ANY maths textbook for students. This book is surely not aiming at the people who want books like that. If you are like me, you are curious about the maths of everyday life but aren't particularly interested in sweating your way through algebraic proofs that can often get in the way of the seeing bigger picture. I wanted a book about maths that was fun, thought-provoking and readable, and for me this book is just right.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Fun Mathematics 10 May 2011
By A. K. Johnston VINE VOICE
This is a follow-up to the earlier, excellent, "Why Do Buses Come In Threes?". While the earlier book focused on those annoying little mysteries of life, this asks a set of different questions, many related to tough decisions such as how conmen get rich, or "should I phone a friend?"

The answers, like before, lead us through a gentle, humorous exploration of mathematics and its relevance to everyday life. Along the way we explore (among others) geometric progression (why all pyramid schemes eventually fail), the geometry of stacking, fractals, chaos theory, the mathematics behind taxi meters, and various uses and abuses of statistics, both to detect and commit fraud.

The two messages of this book are that mathematics is important, and that it's fun. It's in the same vein as the work of Martin Gardener, but with a British slant.

To aid casual readers or those who've previously found the subject forbidding the maths is kept at a fairly simple level. Most of the time the concepts are communicated in words and simple graphs, but key equations are included and explained for completeness. The text is easy to read and the illustrations clear and amusing. Although aimed at those new to the enjoyment of maths, it's also a good memory jogger for those with a bit more background.

I thoroughly recommend this book, and also the authors' earlier volume.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit basic.
Introduces some interesting ideas, but doesn't go into too much depth, and soon moves onto something else, which leaves me wanting more. Still, OK for an easy read.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. A White
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, easy read
Some of the chapters are punchier than others, but the first one on how the days of the week got their names stands out as an excellent one. Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2012 by Doctor Zeke
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, entertaining
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... Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2010 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Brilliant book, worth getting! It really makes you think about stuff in a different way.
Published on 18 Sep 2010 by Chris Homer
5.0 out of 5 stars More fun with numbers in everyday life
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. Read more
Published on 12 May 2009 by Peter Durward Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but the proof reader needs sacking
This book is enormous fun and highly intelligent and presents maths the way teachers should do in schools: that way the children would be much more engaged and enthused by the... Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2008 by Charles
3.0 out of 5 stars A Book For All Occasions
This book was an enjoyable read. It was a nice, light paperback that could be picked up to fill in a few minutes at the end of a period of study or used to wind down after a hard... Read more
Published on 10 Oct 2006 by Ed the Ted
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining for all
I AM a mathematician and had come across a few of the things in far more detail in other books before - which I'd also liked. Read more
Published on 1 May 2006 by Steve B
2.0 out of 5 stars Too simple
This book has been rated too high so far in my opinion by other customers. I am a self taught mathematics fan and consider this book as hardly challenging at all, which is one of... Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2003
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