A mathematical savant finds the beauty of numbers in unexpected places.
Tammet (Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind, 2009, etc.), a man in love with numbers, reveals more about the mysteries of his mind in this delightful, diverse collection of essays. His topics include the concept of zero, the calendar, prime numbers, chess, time and statistics, but happily, readers need have no previous mathematical skills or knowledge. Several of his pieces have an autobiographical component. His essay on infinity shows him as a young boy discovering the infinity of fractions between two points on his walk home from school, and readers learn of his amazing memory in his account of reciting aloud the decimals of pi to 22,514 places at the University of Oxford’s Pi Day. His insights are startling: Tammet sees connections between time tables and proverbs, between prime numbers and haiku, and between rhetoric and math. Trivia fans will find memorable items: His discussion of counting among different cultures reveals that in Icelandic, the word for "four" differs depending on whether one is counting sheep, buses or birthdays, and there is even one astronomer’s formula for calculating the number of planets in the galaxy with communicative life. Far from didactic in tone, Tammet fills his essays with stories of real people, from Omar Khayyam to Stephen Jay Gould, from Archimedes and Pythagoras to Tolstoy and Shakespeare, and from Einstein to the author’s own mother. The author’s fascination with numbers takes him on a wide-ranging tour of history, literature and science, and readers who choose to join him are in for a mind-expanding trip.
Great fun and the perfect gift for any math-phobic person, young or old.