Here’s looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos

Here's looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos

Another math book! Now, I’m averaging about one or two a year. That’s a pretty good number to me considering I am so bad at math. I half force myself to read these books. I do want to know more about math, but I do think a lot of the stuff in these books goes over my head or I forget them very easily. I had this book first time months ago and renewed it several times. I am very bad at math and atypical of many East Asians that way. I failed math in high class and almost failed in nearly every year before that from age 8 to when I stopped in high school. It was a real bane to my existence. I do admire people in the maths and sciences. A lot of my friends are in science, but I do not any math people. Still, I read these books in an attempt to learn more about math and overcome the fear of it. I do not think it improves my knowledge of it, but it is somewhat interesting.

What is interesting is that this math book and the last one I read The Number Mysteries by Marcus du Sautoy were both written by Britons. I am wondering if this is because the British are more open to buying a mainstream math book.

Bellos, unlike du Sautoy, is not really a mathematician. While he has studied maths in university, Bellos is primarily a journalist and writes as one. This means that I found this book easier to understand than the other one. The books are similar though and discuss various topis in math in our daily lives, but this one has some interesting things such as:

  1. A dyscalculic which is dylexia but for numbers and math
  2. In Medieval Lincolnshire, England, shepherds called Five a “pimp”, Ten is a “dik” and Fifteeen is “Bumfit”.
  3. A base of 12 (Dozenal) can be more useful than a base of 10 (Decimal). This makes me think I should count stitches in dozen from here on out.
  4. Numerology. Numbers as qualities. This is something I have had an interest in as well.
  5. Vedic mathemetics.
  6. The basis of zero and how in Indian philosophy, it is the basis of everything.
  7. 6 is a ‘perfect’ number because it is the sum of all its factors 1,2, and 3.
  8. The prevelance of Fibonnaci numbers in nature
  9. Math and the fiber arts
  10. The Gambler’s Fallacy that people think that things are due to happen because the happened in awhile

I also liked Bellos descriptions of all the people he meets and interviews. The way he describes their faces and hair is rather nice and more observational than some other non-fiction books.

All in all, a nice little read for those interested in math but who don’t know everything about it. I recommend it as a primary for those people who use to like math back in school but have not touched it in awhile. It makes you appreciate many math topics and the history of the subject.

Read February 14-17th 2013.

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