- Publisher: Allen Lane
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241360234
- ISBN-13: 978-0241360231
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Customer Reviews: 258 customer ratings
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#458,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #16062 in Humor (Books)
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors Hardcover
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From the Publisher
What happens when maths goes wrong in the real world?
Most of the time maths works quietly behind the scenes, until ... it doesn't. Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near-misses and mishaps, Matt Parker shows us the bizarre ways maths trips us up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world.
'A fascinating and deeply surprising journey into the hilarious and sometimes tragic realms of mathematical error. Brilliant' Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Messy
'If you have waltzed through life without ever considering the daily consequences of fixed-length binary numbers, dividing by zero or rounding errors, strap in and prepare to be both horrified and fascinated' Helen Czerski, author of Storm in a Teacup
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Top international reviews
If you like things like the Ig Nobel's or books by Randall Munroe, then you'll enjoy this. If you're looking for a serious mathematics textbook then this is not it (nor does it claim to be at any point).
But it's not as good as Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension.
This book does show how failure to understand maths can cause horrific problems, be it mass deaths, loss of billions, or having your pilot nearly sucked out of the aeroplane cockpit. But if narrowly-averted catastophe is your thing you'd be better off reading Rachel Maddow's Drift.
In the end, I think the problem comes down to two issues. First off, is trying to put comedy and tragedy together, and secondly there's simply not enough maths in it. There's a bit of talk about how various things work, but little in the way of equations or in-depth exploration. Things are more limited in the real world, and those limitations make maths less interesting.
If you enjoy Parker's other work you'll likely enjoy this, but you won't be blown away by it.
Only negative thing to say is that I was so engrossed I read it all really quickly and would like some more please.
Update: OK, after some reconsiderarion I added a star. The book is not about math or math errors. The book is about human errors in the areas of logic, basic calculations and most of all when avoiding to think things to the end. My disappointment mainly comes because I know the details of 99% of the examples in the book by heart because as an engineer and programmer I am permanently interested in the way humans fail to do things right. I could have come up with exactly that list of examples myself off the top of my head. So why did I buy the book ? Because it has the wrong title. Probably in order to sell more copies it was labled to be about math errors instead of human errors. So now that I know why I'm disappointed why don't I give it four or five stars ? Well, because just listing the examples and philosophying a bit about them is cheap. There are great books out there that use only a small part of these examples but analyze them better, much more systematically and come to practical conclusions. There is a difference in pointing out a weekness and helping people to avoid it. And I may add that I'm not a fan of the modern tendency to distribute responsibility for human mistakes on so many shoulders that in the end nobody is responsible. Sorry, but that's also cheap and it is no path that leads to a reduction in costly mistakes. So I acknowledge that the author assembled that list of examples, but two weeks on YouTube might be enough for that. And what he made of them is still just good enough for three stars in my book. Sorry.
It’s tough in places... i still have no idea what transitive dice might actually be, so if you’re like me I’d recommend going slowly, but overall very good. It helps that you needn’t “get” each part completely to move on... else I’d still be stuck somewhere around chapter 3.
The title may be a little controversial. A lot of the “math errors” mentioned caused a significant number of deaths, so “comedy” is a poor choice of words. Yes, I know he means it in its original sense, but still. Recommend.
However only 3/4 was worth reading. The last quarter of the book wasn’t great. I was quote ready to finish this book when it did. However I did spend a lot time googling all the real life events mentioned.
Well worth a read for those interested in the foibles of 'a little bit of understanding, but lacking in knowing how to apply it'.