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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Thinking in Numbers" got me thinking
This series of 25 essays is clearly well researched and offers some fascinating insights into mathematics from literary, philosophical and scientific perspectives. The range of subjects covered is diverse and eclectic, providing us with some surprising, and occasionally challenging, insights.

Each essay is as varied as it is unique. I thought the essays that...
Published 24 months ago by Mr I J Williams

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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life through the Eyes of a Savant
This is a book of twenty-five essays, entitled `Thinking in Numbers', but touching varied aspects of human culture - literature, art, ancient Greece, city planning, time keeping in the medieval Islamic world, social inequality and even Christian theology. What seemed to me to be minimal was the mathematical content. Topics covered included sets, vulgar fractions,...
Published 24 months ago by Ita


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Thinking in Numbers" got me thinking, 3 Sep 2012
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This series of 25 essays is clearly well researched and offers some fascinating insights into mathematics from literary, philosophical and scientific perspectives. The range of subjects covered is diverse and eclectic, providing us with some surprising, and occasionally challenging, insights.

Each essay is as varied as it is unique. I thought the essays that dealt with the history of mathematical thinking were very interesting, particularly those concerning classical Greek philosophers and mathematicians.

For me, one of the highlights of the book include "Are We Alone?", a chapter which looked at some of the history of mankind's search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and discusses the probabilities involved in this field. "The Calendar of Omar Khayyam" was another really interesting chapter and, I think, probably my favourite of the discursive historical chapters. Other highlights include "Selves and Statistics", "On Big Numbers" and "Talking Chess".

A few chapters cover aspects of Tammet's life and are more reflective, rather than scholarly. They provide a fascinating insight into Tammet's life and how mathematical thinking permeates his consciousness.

This is not a book about a high functioning autistic savant; should anyone wants to know and understand more about Tammet himself, then they should read his earlier work "Born on a Blue Day". It is not a treatise on mathematical theories either. In 25 essays Tammet's passion for numbers combines with his accomplished prose to tell the story of how numbers shape the world in which we live, how they form the structural beauty of a poem and a snowflake, allow us to conceptualise vast distances and numbers from zero to infinity. It shows us how numbers traverse the history of mankind and influence our behaviour, our literature, our dreams and desires.

Tammet has a unique perception of numbers, which he has successfully shared with us. "Thinking is Numbers" is entertaining, enlightening, at times touching, and always thought provoking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More about the mathematician than the maths, 11 Oct 2013
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S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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This was by no means one of the books that I had ever intended to read. I'd never heard of the author nor had this particular book been recommended to me. I found it whilst perusing the science section. The title alone was good enough to make me take a closer look, after which I thought this was worth paying a little bit of money for.

The book is written as a series of short essays, seemingly distinct and with little to no overall narrative to it. So it's a good book to have lying around that can be picked up, read for 15-20 minutes and put down again.

It covers a variety of topics from Tammet's point of view. It must be noted that Tammet (not his real name, he changed it to `better fit' his identity) is described as a high functioning autistic savant. In short, he's a really clever chap. Now I've come across one or two in my time and have been able to hold my own against them in some intellectual challenges. However, they usually get the upper hand on me and I can't quite emulate their speed or agility of thought, which I admit has been a cause of some chagrin from the age of 17 onwards.

So it was with some relish, and a little touch of rivalry, that I wanted to get to see the world through such a savant's eyes. In many respects, what I was reading seemed to be the account of a more articulate version of myself, with the only difference that Tammet views numbers as colours. I knew several in the maths department at university who did this, but I always think in terms of `complements' - i.e. what number would you need to add to make a round number? So if someone says 7, I think 3. If they say 83, I think 17.

I probably ought to confess that I finished this review a few weeks after reading the book, so I am relying a little on memory. While reading it, I found it quite fascinating, but a few weeks later the only things that really stick in my mind are the fact that he came from a very large family and a compelling account of his recitation of digits of pi. This last bit was especially impressive as it ran on for thousands of digits and the recitation took several hours to complete.

The book will be of note to anyone interested in maths or to those who are keen in trying to understand how other people tick.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Making maths more approachable in bite-sized nuggets, 16 Aug 2014
By 
Brian Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This collection of 25 essays by Daniel Tammet, probably best known for his feat of memorising vast quantities of digits of pi, is an enjoyable light way of getting an introduction to some of the reasons that maths is more than just a mechanism for doing science or adding up your shopping bills.

Some essay collections don’t work so well in book form, but these make excellent bite-sized nuggets, with Tammet ranging far and wide over a landscape that successfully pulls in poets, authors and playwrights as much as it does mathematicians. I loved, for instance, the parallels Tammet brings out between Tolstoy’s view of history and calculus.

Inevitably in such a collection there will be some pieces that appeal less to an individual reader. I was less interested in the more autobiographical essays, but I am sure they would appeal to others. If I’m being picky I’d also say Tammet is occasionally a little loose factually. So, for instance, he says the odds of him being in a particular location is 1 in 2 – he’s either there or he’s not. That’s a very strange way of defining odds, which usually means the probability of something: and clearly there isn’t a 1 in 2 chance of him being (say) in my kitchen.

Overall, though, a very enjoyable and informative read.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life through the Eyes of a Savant, 2 Sep 2012
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This is a book of twenty-five essays, entitled `Thinking in Numbers', but touching varied aspects of human culture - literature, art, ancient Greece, city planning, time keeping in the medieval Islamic world, social inequality and even Christian theology. What seemed to me to be minimal was the mathematical content. Topics covered included sets, vulgar fractions, multiplication tables and the ideas of zero and infinity, over all of which I found, and still find, it difficult to be enthusiastic. The essays I really enjoyed were one on counting in different cultures, one on very large numbers (although the definition of Googol is incorrect), and one on medians and means which was illustrated by two fascinating case studies.

When I bought this book I hoped it would give me a greater understanding of people with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome, but again I felt disappointed. There was an interesting account of that day in Oxford when the author broke the European record for the recitation of pi to the greatest number of digits, and a touching account of his conscious attempts to predict his mother's behaviour; but most of this book could have been written by anyone who has successfully passed through a conventional Western educational system, who reads widely and has a very good command of English. Daniel Tammett is not the only person who favours literal interpretations of great writing.

This is a book about `How Maths Illuminates Our Lives', but it relies entirely on the written word. There are no charts, diagrams or graphs, never mind photographs. Why go to the bother of describing a snowflake as an `elaborate, finely ridged stellar dendrite' when a photograph shows its beauty and symmetery so much more effectively? The exquisite photographs of snowflakes in a book borrowed from my local library decades ago, live on in my memory. I suspect the contents of this book will not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So fascinating !, 15 Feb 2014
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I find numbers So interesting now after hating maths at school, which didn't inspire me at all ! Daniel Tammet's books are amazing because they have opened up my mind (almost literally) as to how incredible our brains are...and of how much there is to learn about the World...and the Universe !
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5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, 4 Feb 2014
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A series of short essays, make an enjoyable read, perfect with a cup of coffee or a quiet few minutes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars So that's who ate all the pi!, 18 Jan 2014
By 
Mr. Timothy W. Dumble (Sunderland, England) - See all my reviews
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This collection of thoughtful essays rewards the reader by both providing a fascinating insight into the mind of an autistic savant and in opening our minds to the pervasiveness of numbers in our lives and how the quest for meaning through the seeking of pattern and the abstraction of reality underpins human sentience.

In 'Eternity in an Hour', Tammet brilliantly depicts the burden as well as the gift that Asperger's Syndrome is, his obsession with lampposts and the distance between them crippling his ability to walk to and from school. Frequent mention is made of the different colours of numbers- suggesting the author's experience of synaesthesia (a mixing of the senses) this too has a profound influence on his experience of the world.

Particularly memorable amongst the eclectic collection of ideas explored here is: the reason why Islam was such a driving force behind time keeping and calendars, how prime numbers influence Haiku, Tanka, sestinas and other forms of poetry, how calculus (the mathematical study of change) influenced Tolstoy and an explanation of why a year is longer for a ten year old than it is for a forty year old. A recurring theme is infinity and how fractions afford us an insight into the infinite.

In 'Selves and Statistics' he movingly reasserts the position of the individual over that of society as a whole in discussing averages. Without resorting to formulae or complex maths, the author successfully explains how maths can inform our understanding of life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking in numbers, 4 Oct 2013
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Fascinating little book giving new insights into numbers. I found it a little obscure in places; a book to browse and reread.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars very little maths involved, 11 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives (Kindle Edition)
well written and at parts entertaining, but a misleading title
the books is more a series of anecdotes from Tammet's life with little emphasise on anything more than fairly trivial maths
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating and easily digested, 21 Jan 2013
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M. J. Toohey (England) - See all my reviews
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If you're like me and failed maths "O" level but still can't help wondering about the relationship between maths and more familiar aspects of our world, get a copy of this book. It doesn't patronise. It facinates. You don't need to be a genius to follow it but it doesn't shy away from some pretty big ideas either. To give you an idea of the breadth of it's appeal, I've a relative who is a world class research scientist and he's enjoyed it as much as me who couldn't pass the "O" level!
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