One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains Your World

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Eminent cosmologist and writer John D. Barrow uses simple mathematics to answer one hundred perplexing questions from everyday life.
Mathematics can reveal and illuminate things about the complex world we live in that can’t be found any other way. In this hugely informative and entertaining book, John D. Barrow takes the most perplexing of everyday phenomena—from the odds of winning the lottery and the method of determining batting averages to the shapes of roller coasters and ...

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One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains Your World

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Overview

Eminent cosmologist and writer John D. Barrow uses simple mathematics to answer one hundred perplexing questions from everyday life.
Mathematics can reveal and illuminate things about the complex world we live in that can’t be found any other way. In this hugely informative and entertaining book, John D. Barrow takes the most perplexing of everyday phenomena—from the odds of winning the lottery and the method of determining batting averages to the shapes of roller coasters and the reasoning behind the fairest possible divorce settlements—and explains why things work the way they do. With elementary math and accompanying illustrations, he sheds light on the mysterious corners of the world we encounter every day. Have you ever considered why you always seem to get stuck in the longest line? Why two’s company but three’s a crowd? Or why there are six degrees of separation instead of seven? This clever little book has all the answers to these puzzling, everyday questions of existence that need not perplex us anymore.

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Editorial Reviews

Daily Telegraph
I suspect the craft behind this fun book will only really come to light as we attempt to tell Barrow’s stories to our friends. Suddenly, we will realize how much effort Barrow has expended in explaining difficult things simply.— Simon Ings
Ian Stewart
“John Barrow comprehensively explodes the myths that mathematics is limited to what we learn at school and that none of it is useful in the real world. This dip-in-anywhere book shows you the hidden mathematics behind diamond cutting, high finance, even standing in queue. Essential reading for anyone who wants to know why we need mathematics.”
Simon Ings - Daily Telegraph
“I suspect the craft behind this fun book will only really come to light as we attempt to tell Barrow’s stories to our friends. Suddenly, we will realize how much effort Barrow has expended in explaining difficult things simply.”
Sheldon Lee Glashow
“John Barrow’s wonderfully informative book should charm both lovers and haters of mathematics.”
Steven J. Brams
“The repetition in the title of this book captures its intriguing character: that knowledge about knowledge is itself knowledge, including what we don’t know. John Barrow’s focus is on the mathematical ideas that offer insight into what makes the world turn around. They crop up in everything from physics to politics and whet one’s appetite for digging deeper… [He] directs one’s attention to their larger significance, leaving the reader to see the world with a new understanding.”
School Library Journal
Adult/High School—This collection of bloglike entries is not, as the title would have readers believe, a series of just-so stories, although occasional essays explain such everyday phenomena as why the other line always seems to move faster. More often, though, they are constructed around implausible hypotheticals (what if a soccer league changed scoring rules retroactively?) or end before fully explaining real-world implications. As the selections accumulate, however, it becomes clear that Barrow is interested not in how "math explains your world," but something more subtle: how the world illuminates math. Each piece is an access point to a different aspect of math: probability, trigonometry, algebra, calculus, and much more, but this is not a dry collection of derivations and theorems. Barrow's enthusiastic willingness to use any excuse (however slim) to employ math quickly becomes infectious, and the brevity that at first seems to truncate topics instead serves his holistic view of math as a joyous investigation of the world. As probably the largest population using higher-level math on a regular basis, teens are uniquely positioned to understand and share Barrow's enthusiasms. For those who find something mysterious and intriguing in solving an equation, this collection is a fascinating look into the mind of a professional mathematician and the way in which math can be not simply a row of numbers but a way of looking at the world.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393070071
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/18/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. Barrow is professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the best-selling author of many books on science and mathematics, including Mathletics: 100 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about the World of Sports and 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know: Math Explains Your World.

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