Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day
by
Jamie Buchan
Order:
USA
Can
Readers Digest, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
I
n
Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day
, Jamie Buchan (whose great-grandfather John Buchan's many excellent novels were my teen favorites) gives readers '
a wide-ranging look at the pervasive influence of numbers
' ... '
from zero to infinity via Amazonian tribes, drug culture, and nuclear paranoia.
'
S
ections address
Numbers in Language
;
Numbers in Fiction
;
Numbers in Culture
;
Numbers in Mythology and Religion
; and
Numbers in Math and Science
.
Numbers in Language
range from terms like
Do a Number
to
420
(a code for marijuana use) - Buchan describes origins where they are known (which they are not in the case of
Nineteen to the Dozen
).
N
umbers in Fiction
takes us from
00000
(of
Gravity's Rainbow
fame) to
24601
(from Victor Hugo's
Les Misérables
), addressing along the way films like
The Seven Samurai
and
Catch-22
, and books such as John Buchan's
The Thirty-Nine Steps
and Ray Bradbury's
Fahrenheit 451
.
N
ext,
Numbers in Culture
begins with
1.618 - The Golden Number
and ends with
The Ten Percent Myth
(that we only use that portion of our brains). Along the way, topics include illegal gambling;
Why Buses Come in Threes
; fictional phone numbers; and an Amazonian tribe whose language covers only three numbers (one, two, many).
N
umbers in Mythology and Religion
starts with the mysticism of
Seven
(including the
Seven Wonders of the World
, only one of which still stands). It addresses various traditions of numerology, different zodiacs, and significance of specific numbers in human cultures, ending on
Five
and the
Pentagram
.
N
umbers in Math and Science
begins with
A Mathematical Glossary
for readers who need a quick review. Further topics include
Divisibility Tricks
;
The Fibonacci Sequence
;
Misleading Statistics
(one we should all study carefully); and different usages of the term
Billions
.
I
n his introduction to
Easy as Pi
, Buchan quotes Pythagoras as saying that '
numbers rule the universe.
' Anyone with an interest in how numbers relate to our daily lives - and the lives of those who went before us - will enjoy and be intrigued by the eclectic topics he addresses.
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