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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Book Review: Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker

Oh this was fun! No, you don't need to know a lick about math to enjoy this book (although if your eyes--or in my case ears--glaze over when anyone begins talking about math, that might be more troublesome.) But it's actually perfect for people who struggle with math as Mr. Parker talks about people throughout the ages who have also struggled with math--with often disastrous results! Occasionally hilarious, occasionally deadly, but always informative.

If you want your trivia not deadly, I enjoyed how when mathematicians could finally accurately calculate the height of Mt. Everest, it came out to an even number (I think 29,000 feet. I was listening to it so I can't flip back and I don't feel like googling.) But they know everyone would see that and assume it was an estimate, so they added 2 feet. (This story is also possibly apocryphal, but I choose to believe it, because it's so amusing.) Then there's a harrowing story (no one died which is a real miracle!) Of an airplane windshield being replaced using bolts that were off by such a small amount from the bolts that were supposed to be used, that the human eye can't discern any difference (Mr. Parker ordered one of each bolt and he can't tell the difference.) The windshield ripped out mid-flight. The co-pilot managed to regain control of the plane and land it while several flight attendants took turns holding the legs of the pilot who was dangling outside of the window! Seriously! From bridges that crumbled from weights (or more commonly, from marching in unison) to fighter jets that stopped functioning when they flew over the international dateline to glitches in Pacman and Space Invaders, this was a delightful read.

I downloaded this digital audiobook from Libby/Overdrive via my library.

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