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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives Paperback – 17 Jan 2013
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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)
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.See all Product description
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Daniel Tammet explores how numbers and maths are closely linked to our daily life by telling short stories or talking about history. Each story gives you lots to think about and wonder. For example, he tells the story of how he broke the world record of reciting the number Pi and what he felt preparing for it and doing it.
This is a rare oddity, extremely easy and nice to read.
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.
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.
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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