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Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life Paperback – 20 Mar 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; New e. edition (20 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471379077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471379072
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,140,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

If you've ever bought a Lottery ticket and wondered about your bad luck afterwards, you've had to deal with math. From timing to probability, it pervades our every waking moment, and even the most crippling maths-phobia can't make it go away. Writers Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham throw up their hands in defeat and give in to the amusing, interesting and practical aspects of math in Why Do Buses Come in Threes?. Taking their title from the oft-noticed phenomenon of clumping in mass transit, they explain in clear, common-sense language why this must be so. At the end of their description, you might be left with the uneasy sense that you just learned some maths and on a quick review, you'll find that the authors have in fact snuck some in under your radar. In chapter after chapter, Eastaway and Wyndham successfully navigate statistics, codes, coincidences and many other parts of our lives, peeling away the surface to show what's really going on to make our lives so weird and wonderful. Diagrams and drawings help to make their points even clearer and there are almost never any scary formulae to frighten the timid. If you've been waiting your whole life to learn the Ham Sandwich Theorem, or just want to put some old fears to rest, Why Do Buses Come in Threes? is the solution. --Rob Lightner, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Deals in a very entertaining way with problems in normal life related to mathematics: luck, coincidences, gambling."--"The Independent" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 26 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Some people have a fear of mathematics, possibly because of the abstract teaching methods that were in use in my schooldays. I get the impression that things have changed somewhat since then, but in any case this book provides an easy to understand some of the things that happen in everyday life.

The first chapter begins with numbers that occur frequently in plants, explaining why four-leafed clovers are rare. Depending on the species, plants tend to have three leaves like clovers, or five leaves like buttercups, pansies and primroses, rather than four. The chapter then describes more curiosities about numbers and ratios that occur in plants.

The ninth chapter deals with the title of the book, explaining why buses that begin their journeys at evenly spaced intervals and travelling along the same route don't usually arrive at their destination at evenly spaced intervals. The author suggests that it is quite common for a bus to catch up the one ahead, but that it is most unlikely that a third bus will catch these two, so buses may come in twos but rarely threes.

Other chapters deal with route planning, opinion polls, betting, apparent coincidences, angles, making tea, cutting cake, secret codes, sports rankings, game theory, set theory, map reading, traffic jams, queues, scheduling, logic and deduction. If some of these sound intimidating, don't worry as they are all presented in an easy-going style that makes them more interesting than they might otherwise be.

The final chapter presents a few mathematical tricks that you can play on unsuspecting children as a good way to get them interested in numbers. All in all, this book presents mathematics in an entertaining and easily accessible way.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gerry C on 29 Sep 2006
Format: Paperback
Maths books, even 'popular' ones, generally approach the subject from an abstract point of view. That is partly because mathematics is a beautiful subject in its own right, regardless of its link with the real world. The problem, however, is that most people don't see it that way. What makes 'Why do buses' different is that it is centred firmly on the world of everyday experiences that most people can relate to, like coincidences and traffic jams, and from that starting point it goes on to explore the mathematical ideas behind those phenomena. The book isn't nearly as mathematical as it could be, but if there was more maths in it, I'm prepared to bet that far fewer people would ever have read it, which would defeat the point of it.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Jun 2000
Format: Paperback
I was looking for a book to widen my knowledge of Maths, because I am thinking of applying to do it at university. I wanted to read around the subject in an interesting way. "Why Do Buses Come In Threes" was a brilliant read! It makes Maths a lot of fun and it tells you about many different ways in which Maths can be used in real-life. Most of the book is easy to understand, although some of it is harder and more mathematical, but it is truly great and I would definitely recommend it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Johnston VINE VOICE on 28 Mar 2005
Format: Paperback
The two messages of this book are that mathematics is important to everyday life, and that it's fun. Like the earlier books of Martin Gardener, this book aims to make mathematics relevant and accessible, but with a British rather than American slant.
Have you ever wondered why flowers often have five petals, how bookies' odds work, how you always end up in the slowest queue, or, indeed, why buses come in threes? If so, then this is the book for you.
In the course of a humorous, chatty discourse on the mysteries of life the authors introduce a number of branches of mathematics, including probability, topology, statistics and queuing theory, to name just a few.
To aid casual readers or those who've previously found the subject forbidding the maths is kept at a fairly simple level. However there's still enough detail to be useful in other applications. I used this book as a reminder when trying to solve a problem related to software performance, and others who don't exercise their maths every day might also find it a useful memory jogger.
Whether as an introduction if you've never enjoyed maths before, or a reminder if you have, I thoroughly recommend this book. I can also recommend the companion volume "How Long is a Piece of String?"
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Bruno Espadana on 8 Jun 2006
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading "Why Do Buses Come In Threes?" and I was disappointed with it. I was expecting something more and the book sure had the potential to be a quite interesting book about the use of mathematics on everyday subjects.

The problem though is that by trying to make it simple for people with no maths background, the authors went too far - they hint on mathematical explanations for some of the topics presented, but they never get to actually present the maths, albeit in a simple form.

It's not enough to have someone telling you that some mundane phenomena is explained by maths, you should take the time to actually explain the maths behind it, and this book fails in doing that.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By red_monkey VINE VOICE on 15 April 2006
Format: Paperback
If you have an interest in the reasons for things, a hunch that maths may explain these things, and an inability to grasp mathematical formulae then this may well be the book you're looking for.

After three unsuccessful attempts to read The Magical Maze by Ian Stewart, I found this book on the shop shelves and thought I'd give it a go.

Outstanding. Where The Magical Maze illustrates nature's relationship with maths but fails to explain it, this book succeeds and then some.

This was an absolute pleasure to read and taught me things that my school teachers should have, had they had the imagination and enthusiasm of the authors.

The greatest revelation was how counter-intuitive a lot of fairly simple mathematical problems are.

I now feel cleverer than when I started the book which can only be a good thing!
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