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Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors Hardcover – 7 Mar 2019
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Matt Parker has pulled off something wonderful . . . his stories are superb. (Marcus Berkmann The Daily Mail)
Parker is consistently very funny . . . highly entertaining. (The Guardian)
Numbers to die for. Four stars. (Simon Griffith Mail on Sunday)
Bought it yesterday, enjoying it enormously, well done! (Dara Ó Briain Twitter)
I just finished the new book by irrepressible maths enthusiast @standupmaths, and it's GREAT! (Adam Savage, ex-host of 'Mythbusters' Twitter)
An entertaining and often alarming journey through the numerical blunders made over the years. (The Big Issue)
"[Matt Parker] shows off math at its most playful and multifarious" --Jordan Ellenberg, author of "How to Not Be Wrong (Jordan Ellenberg)
Matt Parker is some sort of unholy fusion of a prankster, wizard and brilliant nerd--maths is rarely this clever, funny and ever so slightly naughty. (Adam Rutherford, author of "Creation")
About the Author
Originally a maths teacher from Australia, Matt Parker now lives in Godalming in a house full of almost every retro video-game console ever made. He is fluent in binary and could write your name in a sequence of noughts and ones in seconds. He loves doing maths and stand-up, often simultaneously. When he's not working as the Public Engagement in Mathematics Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, he's performing in sold-out live comedy shows, spreading his love of maths via TV and radio, or converting photographs into Excel spreadsheets. He is the author of Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension.
From the Publisher
What happens when maths goes wrong in the real world?
Most of the time maths works quietly behind the scenes, until ... it doesn't. Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near-misses and mishaps, Matt Parker shows us the bizarre ways maths trips us up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world.
'A fascinating and deeply surprising journey into the hilarious and sometimes tragic realms of mathematical error. Brilliant' Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Messy
'If you have waltzed through life without ever considering the daily consequences of fixed-length binary numbers, dividing by zero or rounding errors, strap in and prepare to be both horrified and fascinated' Helen Czerski, author of Storm in a Teacup
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If you like things like the Ig Nobel's or books by Randall Munroe, then you'll enjoy this. If you're looking for a serious mathematics textbook then this is not it (nor does it claim to be at any point).
But it's not as good as Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension.
This book does show how failure to understand maths can cause horrific problems, be it mass deaths, loss of billions, or having your pilot nearly sucked out of the aeroplane cockpit. But if narrowly-averted catastophe is your thing you'd be better off reading Rachel Maddow's Drift.
In the end, I think the problem comes down to two issues. First off, is trying to put comedy and tragedy together, and secondly there's simply not enough maths in it. There's a bit of talk about how various things work, but little in the way of equations or in-depth exploration. Things are more limited in the real world, and those limitations make maths less interesting.
If you enjoy Parker's other work you'll likely enjoy this, but you won't be blown away by it.
The author has hidden three mathematical mistakes in the book, for the reader to find. An answer page at the back would have been helpful!
A great Christmas gift for those with an inquisitive bent.
I enjoyed the book but was a little disappointed that so much was taken from fields of computing and engineering, where the issue wasn't strictly a mathematical failure, but a failure, for example, to understand the limits of binary, or load-bearing, or resonant frequency. Many of the examples could easily have found themselves in books subtitled "A Comedy of Engineering Errors" or "A Comedy of Programming Errors"
The book is fine if you are looking for a book that shows how mathematics in its many practical applications goes wrong. Having said that there are chapters that are more maths/number/statistics oriented than others. But not as many as I would have preferred.
The book is reasonably well written, easy enough to read, but a few too many asides to the reader for my liking.
Conclusion: Fine, and reasonably enjoyable for a broad look at number related failures in a wide variety of fields.