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Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors

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His name is Rich, by the way, just in case this book is one of the few objects to survive the apocalypse and he becomes the new oldest-named human. We know a million, a billion and a trillion are different sizes, but we often don’t appreciate the staggering increases between them. Originally a maths teacher from Australia, Matt Parker now lives in Godalming in a house full of almost every retro video-game console ever made.

The topics covered in this book are wide-ranging, and a lot of them are things you might not even think of as being mathematical (putting a padlock on a door properly, for instance, or people with names that get ignored by computer code). The effort required to be good at any skill is almost always actually the point – but too many people seem to think that a skill needs to be 100% innate or it isn’t a real skill. The exterior of the building was designed by architect Rafael Viñoly to have a sweeping curve, but this meant that all the reflective glass windows accidentally became a massive concave mirror – a kind of giant lens in the sky able to focus sunlight on a tiny area. When it was reopened, the Millennium Bridge was described as ‘probably the most complex passively-damped structure in the world’.There is an Australian word that is used to describe people that is affectionate, but when you learn its etymology, you wonder how it possibly ever could have come to common use. I think the author has great talent for popularising some difficult science and maths concepts (he does well with probability) and he’s easy to read but it’d be better to see it used for one grand concept in a book rather than this mish mash of the interesting and mundane. I mean, that is still a thing; a friend of mine manages a brewery and does exactly that for a living.

The main characters altered the computer code at a company so that, whenever interest was being calculated, instead of being rounded to the nearest penny the value would be truncated and the remaining fractions of a penny deposited into their account. Parker takes us through some of his favourite, or some of the more noteworthy, cases of maths going wrong across a variety of applications. El libro recopila cientos de pequeñas historias, intentando darles una cierta continuidad y agrupándolas por capítulos, pero podríamos decir que este es un libro casi aleatorio porque para describir todo su contenido necesitaríamos casi casi reescribir de nuevo el libro; no hay una buena manera de resumirlo. Even after a lifetime of education dealing with small numbers there is a vestigial instinct that larger numbers are logarithmic; that the gap between a trillion and a billion feels about the same as the jump between a million and a billion – because both are a thousand times bigger. In many of the stories here you might find yourself feeling rather smug – but as they say in the classics, ‘pride comes before a fall’ and ‘there but for the grace of God go I…’ It is really worth while keeping those little quotes in mind here.

I enjoyed the book but was a little disappointed that so much was taken from fields of computing and engineering, where the issue wasn't strictly a mathematical failure, but a failure, for example, to understand the limits of binary, or load-bearing, or resonant frequency. On 5 July 2011 they had decided to work out to Snap’s ‘The Power’, and everyone jumped around harder than they usually did. I know it’ll be a matter of a reader’s interests but about half of the book covered topics I regarded as dull, so you’ll need to work to find the ones that interest you.

The Public Engagement in Mathematics Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, Matt has a square named after him but he doesn't want to talk about it. By using the Web site, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agreed to be bound by the Terms and Conditions.Yeah, he probably ought to have just given up, he clearly didn’t have any natural talent for that shit. The reduced precision in a rounded number makes them also feel less accurate, even though that is often not the case. Supongo que ha querido dirigir su producto hacia un público más versado en el tema, y es comprensible. Within the system are multiple layers, each with their own defences and safeguards to slow mistakes.

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