Why Do Buses Come in Threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life

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Why is it better to buy a lottery ticket on Friday? Do you get wetter running rather than walking through the rain? Why do traffic lights always seem to be red when you're in a hurry? These and other questions about the curiosities of everyday life are answered in this delightfully irreverent and highly informative book. Why Do Buses Come in Threes? is a wonderful way to discover the relevance of math in absolutely everything we do, from dating and driving to gambling and cooking. Whether readers have a degree in...
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Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life

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Overview

Why is it better to buy a lottery ticket on Friday? Do you get wetter running rather than walking through the rain? Why do traffic lights always seem to be red when you're in a hurry? These and other questions about the curiosities of everyday life are answered in this delightfully irreverent and highly informative book. Why Do Buses Come in Threes? is a wonderful way to discover the relevance of math in absolutely everything we do, from dating and driving to gambling and cooking. Whether readers have a degree in astrophysics or haven't touched a math problem since high school, this book will change the way they view the world--whether it's discussing the wartime technique for saving energy when making toast; the odd coincidence of U.S. presidents dying on the Fourth of July, or the exponential growth of Australian rabbits.

Rob Eastaway runs the world ratings for cricket and is the author of The Guinness Book of Mindbenders and What Is a Googly? Jeremy Wyndham, PhD, a former junior international bridge player, runs a market research company.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Though written for the non-mathematician, this presentation will nevertheless require some concentration from the mathematically challenged. It's a clever presentation of a wide range of topics, some couched in questions such as: what's the best view of the Statue of Liberty, and what's the best way to cut a cake? A sampling of other topics: code-making and breaking, sports rankings, queues and traffic jams, bad luck, and entertaining tricks for children. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471347569
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/2/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.57 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction xi
1 Why can't I find a four-leafed clover? 1
Links between nature and mathematics
2 Which way should I go? 13
From postmen to taxi drivers
3 How many people watch Friends? 23
Most public statistics come from surveys, but how reliable are they?
4 Why do clever people get things wrong? 31
Sometimes experience and intelligence can be a disadvantage
5 What's the best bet? 39
Lotteries, horses and casinos all offer the chance of a big prize
6 How do you explain a coincidence? 47
Coincidences aren't as surprising as you would think
7 What's the best view of the Statue of Liberty? 55
Everyday geometries, from snooker to statues
8 How do you keep a secret? 63
Code-making and breaking isn't just for spies
9 Why do buses come in threes? 73
Travelling without a car leads to all sorts of conundrums
10 What's the best way to cut a cake? 81
Why four o'clock can be the time for some mathematical headaches
11 How can I win without cheating? 87
Almost everything in life can be analysed as a game
12 Who's the best in the world? 95
The mathematics behind sports rankings
14 What happened to chapter 13? 103
Can bad luck be explained?
15 Whodunnit? 109
Everyday logic, from murder mysteries to political statistics
16 Why am I always in traffic jams? 119
Motorways, escalators and supermarkets all have one thing in common: queues
17 Why are showers always too hot or too cold? 127
From squealing microphones to population explosions
18 How can I get the meal ready on time? 137
Critical paths and other scheduling problems
19 How can I entertain the kids? 145
Numbers can be magic
References 153
Index 155
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An entertaining discussion of mathematical curiosities.

    Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham's Why do buses come in threes?: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life describes how mathematics can be used to analyze situations in everyday life in a manner that is accessible to a high school student who has completed courses in algebra and geometry. Readers of popularizations of mathematics will find much that is familiar here. However, there are some notable exceptions, notably negative feedback mechanisms, queueing theory, and the use of critical paths in scheduling. Other topics include Fibonacci numbers, graph theory, statistics and polling, probability (as it relates to gambling, coincidences, and bad luck), cryptography, game theory, the use of geometry and trigonometry in everyday life, sports rankings, the use of logic in everyday life, and the role of mathematics in magic. The authors mean to entertain rather than explain the underlying mathematics. Formulas are presented rather than derived. Consequently, those readers with a deep knowledge of mathematics may find the book frustrating at times. However, the authors provide a list of references so that interested readers can explore the topics further. Laypeople will find the book accessible and entertaining. This is evident from the start as the authors demonstrate why it is difficult to find a four-leaf clover using Fibonacci numbers. Other mathematical topics are also introduced through examples. For instance, game theory is introduced via a discussion of two teenagers who want to date the same girl and negative feedback mechanisms are introduced through a discussion of why it is difficult to properly adjust the temperature of your shower. The examples upon which the authors draw are often visual, making them easy for readers to understand. The authors' exposition, which is supplemented by humorous illustrations by Barbara Shore, is clear. One exception is their discussion of the 1948 presidential election results in the United States. Polls preceding the election predicted that Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican governor of New York, was likely to win the election. On election day, as the authors state, Truman won by a margin of more than two million votes. However, the percentages they give for the election are incorrect, so it looks like Truman actually did worse in the election than in the polls. In reality, Truman won 49.55% of the vote while Dewey won 45.07% of the vote. State's Rights Party (Dixiecrat) candidate Strom Thurmond (2.41%) and Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace (2.37%) accounted for most of the other votes. The authors give a percentage for independent, but it is not clear whether they are referring to Strom Thurmond (who won four southern states) or all the candidates other than Truman and Dewey. The only other error I found was a typo that proved inconsequential. Reading this book will give you a sense of why it is helpful to understand mathematics in your everyday life, particularly when dealing with people who may be unscrupulous such as marketers or politicians. Moreover, the authors will keep you entertained while you learn.

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