Fun reading for nonmathematicians.

HUMBLE PI

WHEN MATH GOES WRONG IN THE REAL WORLD

A pleasant exploration of our deeply held incompetence at mathematics.

Comedian and YouTube performer Parker (Things To Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician's Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More, 2014), who hosts a show on the Science Channel called Outrageous Acts of Science, claims bluntly that humans are stupid at dealing with numbers. “We were not born with any kind of ability to understand fractions, negative numbers, or the many other strange concepts developed by mathematics,” he writes, “but, over time, your brain can slowly learn how to deal with them.” Ironically, it is engineering and computer glitches, not pure math, that make up much of the book. Buildings and bridges collapse because someone gets the numbers wrong. A squadron of advanced jets crossing the Pacific suddenly lost their electronics because their navigation computer program, which must keep track of time, couldn’t deal with crossing the International Date Line. They followed an older plane nearby to a safe landing. A corporation, searching for an employee named Jack Null, could never find him because “null” to a computer means “no data.” People named Blank, Sample, and Test also cause trouble. A number divided by a really tiny number becomes very large. The result of dividing by zero is meaningless; no proper computer will deal with it. Humans yearn to predict the unpredictable; the author shows how a truly random event (a lottery draw, a coin flip) has no influence on the following event. No matter how many times heads appears, the chance of tails remains 50-50. The only way to increase your chance of winning the lottery is to buy more tickets. If black comes up four, five, or 10 times in a row on the roulette wheel, gamblers rush to bet on red because it is “due”—but it isn’t. Nonsense, blunders, and delusions make for good reading, so Parker’s relentless litany will have a wide appeal.

Fun reading for nonmathematicians.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08468-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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