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So that's who ate all the pi!
on 18 January 2014
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.