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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives by [Tammet, Daniel]
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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Review

Thinking in Numbers is unprecedented: a pitch-perfect duet between mathematics and literature ... Mathematics, Tammet says, is illimitable. It is a language through which the human imagination expresses itself. Presumably this means mathematics has, or deserves, a literature. In Tammet, it already has a laureate. (New Scientist)

A collection of essays on subjects as diverse as Shakespeare and Tolstoy, a rumination on snow and another on chess, as well as a fantastically nuanced piece about his mother. It is a collection which showcases Tammet's extraordinary talent . . . a writer of unique capabilities. (Scotsman Magazine)

An interesting and often beautiful approach: Tammet writes well... and his love of numbers shines from the page... Tammet's discussion of big numbers is fascinating. (Daily Telegraph)

Tammet's choice of subjects is personal, and wonderfully eclectic... What lifts Tammet's entertaining collection above the ordinary are the often surprising links that he sees, explores and explains. (Sunday Telegraph)

Explores the 'what if' of maths and links it with literature and life. He is an exhilarating thinker, an exciting writer, and looks at the world with an eclectic, quizzical eye. (Saga Magazine)

Tammet is an accomplished writer with a prose style akin to a warm embrace... scintillating ... enlightens and entertains in (approximately) equal measure. (Daily Express)

When he talks about his own extreme skills, such as his feat of pi memorisation, the book comes alive. (BBc Focus)

Daniel Tammet's unique take on the world will prove that life - not just classroom maths - is more than just a numbers game. (Gay Times)

As fluid with words as with numbers, his essays are artfully constructed: intriguing openings to entice us; interesting snippets of history; accessible but unpatronising tones; neat endings. (Independent)

In Tammet's mind, literature, art and maths are united. For him, maths' real-life applications are not merely tax returns and restaurant bills, but the storytelling of an infinite subject and the reasoning behind our daily existence. (The Huffington Post)

Thinking in Numbers is a mind-expanding, kinetic aesthetic experience. My mind shot off the page, spurred to see universal patterns very much alive in everything from the natural world we share to how imagery and metaphor occur in my own creative process. Tammet's poetic mathematics are beautiful guideposts for thinking about life and even love. As I read, I found myself saying, 'Yes, this is true, and this is true, and this is so true...'

(Amy Tan)

Always informative, always entertaining, Daniel Tammet never loses his respect for the mystery of the universe of number. (JM Coetzee)

Born on a Blue Day introduced us to the extraordinary phenomenon of Daniel Tammet, and Thinking in Numbers enlarges one's wonder at Tammet's mind and his all-embracing vision of the world as grounded in numbers. (Oliver Sacks, MD)

Book Description

Mathematical savant and bestselling author of BORN ON A BLUE DAY, this is Tammet's engaging and personal exploration of what numbers can teach us about our lives and minds.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 548 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (16 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008RRH3EY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #235,751 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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