Humble Pi
Most of the time, the maths in our everyday lives works quietly behind the scenes. Until someone forgets to carry a '1' and a bridge collapses, a plane drops out of the sky or a building rocks when its resonant frequency matches a gym class leaping to Snap's 1990 hit I've Got The Power. This book is all about what happens when maths goes wrong in the real world.Exploring and explaining a litany of near-misses and mishaps involving the internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries and the Roman empire, Matt Parker shows us the bizarre ways maths trips us all up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world. Mathematics doesn't have good 'people skills', but we would all be better off, he argues, if we saw it as a practical ally. By making maths our friend, we can use it to our advantage and learn from its pitfalls.

Humble Pi Details

TitleHumble Pi
Author
ReleaseMar 7th, 2019
PublisherAllen Lane
ISBN-139780241360194
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Mathematics, Audiobook

Humble Pi Review

  • Ed
    January 1, 1970
    Knew I was going to love this book when I opened it and immediately saw the page numbers going the wrong way.It is a lot of fun the whole way through. Parker takes us through some of his favourite, or some of the more noteworthy, cases of maths going wrong across a variety of applications. We're talking engineering and computing, from bridges to spacecraft to calendars to ancient sumerian tablets. His enthusiam shines brightly through, and it's hard to not be infected by it. His writing is infus Knew I was going to love this book when I opened it and immediately saw the page numbers going the wrong way.It is a lot of fun the whole way through. Parker takes us through some of his favourite, or some of the more noteworthy, cases of maths going wrong across a variety of applications. We're talking engineering and computing, from bridges to spacecraft to calendars to ancient sumerian tablets. His enthusiam shines brightly through, and it's hard to not be infected by it. His writing is infused with a dry wit and a good sprinkling of genuine laugh-out-loud humour, which hopefully would make this a fun read ever for those who aren't already invested in the maths stories.My major criticism is that despite the clear over-arching theme of maths problems, the book still does not feel that cohesive. It has the feeling of a series of articles, and just never quite manages to tie them all together or raise a greater point. This ultimately doesn't matter too much though as it is still a very engaging and enjoyable read. Definitely learnt a new thing or two!
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  • Brian Clegg
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Parker had me thoroughly enjoying this collection of situations where maths and numbers go wrong in everyday life. I think the book's title is a little weak - 'Humble Pi' doesn't really convey what it's about, but that subtitle 'a comedy of maths errors' is far more informative.With his delightful conversational style, honed in his stand-up maths shows, it feels as if Parker is a friend down the pub, relating the story of some technical disaster driven by maths and computing, or regaling us Matt Parker had me thoroughly enjoying this collection of situations where maths and numbers go wrong in everyday life. I think the book's title is a little weak - 'Humble Pi' doesn't really convey what it's about, but that subtitle 'a comedy of maths errors' is far more informative.With his delightful conversational style, honed in his stand-up maths shows, it feels as if Parker is a friend down the pub, relating the story of some technical disaster driven by maths and computing, or regaling us with a numerical cock-up. These range from the spectacular - wobbling and collapsing bridges, for example - to the small but beautifully formed, such as Excel's rounding errors.Sometimes it's Parker's little asides that are particularly attractive. I loved his rant on why phone numbers aren't numbers at all (would it be meaningful for someone to ask you what half your phone number is?). We discover the trials and tribulations of getting calendars right, explore some of the oddities of probability, enjoy a bit of impossible geometry and see how getting units right (or wrong) can make all the difference. Of course there are the big stories, from NASA disasters to the risks of trying to crash onboard systems on planes mid-flight. But it's often those little details like the phone numbers that tickled me. I loved, for example, Parker's attempts to get the footballs on UK signs geometrically correct - totally misunderstood by the bureaucracy - or when Parker points out the problems of graphics featuring multiple cogs interlocked with each other in a way that will lock them solid - not to mention his combinatorial struggles with the McDonald's McChoice menu.The only thing I did find - and this is the only reason the book doesn't get five stars - is that the final couple of chapters seemed a little samey. Rather than save the best to last, Parker resorts to revisiting rather familiar feeling computer problems, which are interesting (but perhaps more to me, with a background in computing, than many readers), but by now not quite as original and fresh feeling.However, this is an excellent read, managing to be light and meaty at the same time, and highly recommended for anyone interested in maths, business or computing.
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  • Mark Loughridge
    January 1, 1970
    I love maths. I enjoy finding out about mathematical and statistical errors. I was thinking some of my maths teacher friends might enjoy it and find it useful for illustrations in class. Thats where the plot breaks down a little.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 frequenc I love maths. I enjoy finding out about mathematical and statistical errors. I was thinking some of my maths teacher friends might enjoy it and find it useful for illustrations in class. Thats where the plot breaks down a little.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. Many of the examples could easily have found themselves in books subtitled "A Comedy of Engineering Errors" or "A Comedy of Programming Errors"The book is fine if you are looking for a book that shows how mathematics in its many practical applications goes wrong. Having said that there are chapters that are more maths/number/statistics oriented than others. But not as many as I would have liked.The book is reasonably well written, but a few too many asides to the reader for my liking.
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  • Markus
    January 1, 1970
    "Humble Pi" is a good title. "A Comedy of Maths Errors" is not a good subtitle.The book is occasionally funny but too many people die during the stories for it to be a light read. The author mention problems in getting real world examples without turning to disasters, and it is noticeable. A good book but not what I was expecting.
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  • Bella H
    January 1, 1970
    Funny, thought-provoking and very interesting - a great book for anyone who is interested in engineering, physics, maths or programming.
  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    Books about numbers shouldn't be this fun or funny. I like Matt Parker's style, he makes maths not only interesting but accessible.
  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this, easy to read, engaging and amusing. As a Computer Science teacher I think I will be adding it to my recommended reading list.
  • Finlay
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Parker is pretty good at turning maths into an accessible subject. I already read his other book (Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension) recently, and it turned out he narrated his own audiobook, so I tried that version this time.In some ways, I feel like I missed out on the diagrams from the book itself - maths can be very visual sometimes - but I gained a lot by Parker's lively narration. In fact, when he gets to parts of the book that are difficult to narrate (such as long string Matt Parker is pretty good at turning maths into an accessible subject. I already read his other book (Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension) recently, and it turned out he narrated his own audiobook, so I tried that version this time.In some ways, I feel like I missed out on the diagrams from the book itself - maths can be very visual sometimes - but I gained a lot by Parker's lively narration. In fact, when he gets to parts of the book that are difficult to narrate (such as long strings of numerals, or the aforementioned diagrams), he breaks from the narration and tries to describe it in a more conversational style. Most audiobooks I know would have just skipped over it, or read the incomprehensible numeral without much consideration for ease of understanding.Anyway, as a few others have noted, most of the errors that Parker talks about in the book are more about engineering or science than strictly mathematics, but let's not split hairs over that. More worryingly, it felt like about half of the errors concern planes that might drop out of the sky, or things like military and aerospace errors that are in the public domain. Not that I'm going to start being afraid of flying, but it makes you wonder how much we rely on these machines Not Breaking.The amount of times that Parker started describing a problem and I would realize before he got to the climax exactly what the problem would be - and then groan loudly out loud - is also worrying...
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  • Peter Jones
    January 1, 1970
    Another great read. I enjoy his presentation style and sense of humor. This one didn't stretch my math understanding like Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension did. But the anecdotal narrative provided a different and interesting take on presenting the mathematical concepts.
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  • Don McKenzie
    January 1, 1970
    Yes!!Very few maths or stats books leave me wanting to meet the authors. I now follow Matt Parker. An obvious love of all things mathematical coupled with a sense of humour Tom Sharpe would have appreciated make this book a joy.
  • Mairead
    January 1, 1970
    Fab, just fab!
  • Alden
    January 1, 1970
    Parker’s snarky humor and puerile puns make for a thoroughly entertaining read. And the way he went about crowdsourcing proofreading (“I’ve deliberately left three mistakes of my own in this book. Let me know if you catch them all!”) is fiendish. There are significantly more than three. But, “...all remaining errors are hilarious jokes I’ve demanded be left in.” These quotes are only here to show I’ve read the whole book. 0xFFFFUNNY stuff.
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  • Ben Orlin
    January 1, 1970
    A pleasantly overstuffed book documenting mathematical errors - large and small, frivolous and fatal, from across mathematics (not to mention engineering, architecture, and computer science).Such a catalogue might come off as pedantic or sneering, but Parker is too generous a writer (and too skilled a comedian) for that. He sympathizes with the mistaken even as he relishes the mistakes, whether it's the nail-biting tension of a (non-fatal) plane failure or the aggravating absurdity of a geometri A pleasantly overstuffed book documenting mathematical errors - large and small, frivolous and fatal, from across mathematics (not to mention engineering, architecture, and computer science).Such a catalogue might come off as pedantic or sneering, but Parker is too generous a writer (and too skilled a comedian) for that. He sympathizes with the mistaken even as he relishes the mistakes, whether it's the nail-biting tension of a (non-fatal) plane failure or the aggravating absurdity of a geometrically inaccurate soccer ball on U.K. road signs.What's the message? None, really; Parker is less interested in generalizations than in specific, compelling stories. As with a Randall Munroe or a Martin Gardner, the unifying force is the curiosity and personality of the writer.Also, a shout-out to the best gimmick I've seen in any pop math book: the pages are "mistakenly" numbered in reverse.(Disclaimer: I read an advanced reading copy provided by the author. But I assure you that my soul is iron, and his generosity did not sway me.)
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  • Tapio Kurkinen
    January 1, 1970
    Marvelous read. The book is filled with all types of mathematical errors made over the past decade and does a great job of analyzing why they happened and what can we learn from them. Parker's writing style is funny and easy to read and I really enjoyed the book from start to finish.I really struggled to decide if this deserved 5 stars but I ultimately decided to go with 4 for two reasons. Firstly I think this book felt way more disjoint than Parker's previous work and I think it could have focu Marvelous read. The book is filled with all types of mathematical errors made over the past decade and does a great job of analyzing why they happened and what can we learn from them. Parker's writing style is funny and easy to read and I really enjoyed the book from start to finish.I really struggled to decide if this deserved 5 stars but I ultimately decided to go with 4 for two reasons. Firstly I think this book felt way more disjoint than Parker's previous work and I think it could have focused on math a bit more. All the engineering mistakes were interesting but didn't feel coercive in the context of the book. Secondly, I felt the book could have gone into the details a bit more. I know the book was directed towards the general population and I'm in the minority as a math major, but I felt Parker's first book had way more interesting detail and new maths for me to learn. With all of this said, I still highly recommend this reading this book. My expectations were really high and I wasn't disappointed.
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  • Pınar
    January 1, 1970
    Another great read by Matt Parker. I love his sense of humor and his conversational style. Most of the errors were in engineering and computer programming, applications of which span various fields from finance to medicine. However, if you expect the "maths content" to resemble that of Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, you may be disappointed. My sole expectation (maths-wise) was (view spoiler)[the mention of the fabulous Parker Square (hide spoiler)] and I was not disappointed.I ap Another great read by Matt Parker. I love his sense of humor and his conversational style. Most of the errors were in engineering and computer programming, applications of which span various fields from finance to medicine. However, if you expect the "maths content" to resemble that of Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, you may be disappointed. My sole expectation (maths-wise) was (view spoiler)[the mention of the fabulous Parker Square (hide spoiler)] and I was not disappointed.I appreciate that he has managed to come up with a diverse bunch of real errors, because as it is also stated in the book, such errors are usually swept under the rug, or locked away behind non-disclosure agreements. I also appreciate the mention of functional sausages and hot cheese.
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  • Mario Cortes
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent exploration of so many different ways the numbers and math that permeate our lives can go wrong.For those that follow Matt Parker around the internets, some of the anecdotes within this book will be retreads from his other works, but that never kept me from laughing along with the absurdities and oddities.I’ve already found myself passing excerpts around with friends because somehow we’ve found ourselves discussing spreadsheet (bad) habits and rounding.Highly recommend to fans of Ma An excellent exploration of so many different ways the numbers and math that permeate our lives can go wrong.For those that follow Matt Parker around the internets, some of the anecdotes within this book will be retreads from his other works, but that never kept me from laughing along with the absurdities and oddities.I’ve already found myself passing excerpts around with friends because somehow we’ve found ourselves discussing spreadsheet (bad) habits and rounding.Highly recommend to fans of Matt Parker, to people who like math, or to people just looking for a (very nerdy) laugh.
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  • Simona Vesela
    January 1, 1970
    I like the author's humour. English and nerdy, occasional footnotes and comments made it hard to put down.It is an entertaining, light book about errors in engineering. So much so, that a more appropriate name would be:Humble 3: A Comedy of Engineering ErrorsI would recommend it.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Entertaining:A maths book that is fun to read. As anyone who knows me will be aware I love maths, but you don't need much maths to read this book. Everything is simply explained. Matt Parker shows why maths is important in the real world, by giving humorous examples of when it all went wrong.
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  • Simon
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting and sobering view...... of the impact of mathematics in the world around us. From buildings to bridges and aircraft to rockets Matt shows how the maths is fundamentally important.
  • E Lim
    January 1, 1970
    Entertaining read. The mix of stories, some humorous and some very tragic, raises awareness on common erroneous assumptions that leads to these errors.
  • Hannu Sinisalo
    January 1, 1970
    Hieno kirja matemaattisista virheistä, jotka ovat aiheuttaneet harmia tai vakavia onnettomuuksia. Mutta vaikeuksissa piilee jonkun uuden alku, ainakin jos myönnämme virheemme ja opimme niistä.
  • Emmanuel Parfond
    January 1, 1970
    The Hot Cheese model of accident causation 😀
  • Unai Ansede
    January 1, 1970
    Te enseña curiosidades donde las matemáticas han fallado para que veas realmente todo lo que funciona gracias a las matemáticas. Muy interesante y buenas explicaciones.
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