Once Upon a Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic of Stories (Allen Lane Science)

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9780140281798: Once Upon a Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic of Stories (Allen Lane Science)

The human imagination seems able to explore two very different worlds: the realm of mathematics, statistics and exact science, and the contrasting world of personal experience. This book explores the unexpected relationships that tie these two worlds together.

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Review:

Mathematician John Allen Paulos bravely bridges the scientific and literary cultures with this amusing, enlightening look at numbers and stories. If you think those two things go together like a "horse and a paperclip," as Allen wryly observes, you only have to look at phenomena like the Bible codes, the stock market's ups and downs, and the Clinton sex scandal to begin to understand the hidden bonds between them. Put simply, mathematics can describe everything that happens, and everything that happens contextualises mathematics. In demonstrating this, Paulos continues the noble numeracy crusade he began with A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Beyond Numeracy. Perhaps the most compelling thought experiments in the book are those of the statistics of stereotyping and race relations. Paulos shows, mathematically, that minority status makes achieving equality extraordinarily difficult.

If you want to keep hold of your comfortable worldview, don't read Once Upon a Number. But you'll be missing out on an unforgettable reminder of what chance, coincidence and odds really mean, along with several valuable life lessons that may help you understand lost socks, racism and mistaken identity. --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com

About the Author:

John Allen Paulos received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin and is professor of mathematics at Temple University. Dr. Paulos has written a number of scholarly papers on mathematical logic, probability, and the philosophy of science. He is also the author "of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, Beyond Numeracy: Ruminations of a Numbers Man," "Mathematics and Humor," and "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper." He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

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