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100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know
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100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  42 reviews
'If people do not believe that mathematics is simple,
it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.'

John von Neumann

Mathematics can tell you things about the world that can't be learned in any other way. This hugely informative and wonderfully entertaining little book answers one hundred essential questions about existence. It unravels the knotty, clarifie
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Bodley Head
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Jun 15, 2009 Wesley added it
I found this book in Barnes and Nobles and subsequently got it as a birthday present. Not wanting to disappoint my parents, I decided to read it. Despite it being boring at first, I actually found it to be quite enjoyable midway through. The book essentially explains how all your common occurances in life link back to mathematics. My personal favorite is an explanation of why people often gripe about find themselves in the longer line at a store or a post office. The simple explaination is becau ...more
If you like math, you'll like this book, but you can probably get along just fine without knowing any of the 100 things about the mathematics in the world; most people do. In fact, most people would probably not be at all interested in the majority of things in this book.

If you don't like math, maybe you will like it after reading this book. But you probably won't. I've found that the things I find most exhilarating about math bore a lot of people.

This collection of short, essay style chapters (100 chapters in 277 pages)is great for random reading (as I have done while eating breakfast). For those with an interest in sports, there are a great many interesting sports related math items, though the sports include those which are opaque to American readers, such as Cricket. The math is not complicated, but the thinking involved does cause the reader to delve into real world issues, well beyond sports alone.

This is precisely the kind of book
Cheryl Gatling
I was attracted to this book by its clever title. Although I would quibble that most of the things in the book are not essential (you could live a very satisfactory life without ever knowing any of them, and most people do), the subtitle "Math Explains Your World" is very apt. There is a formula for figuring out how many baseball cards to buy in order to get a full set, a formula for figuring out how long an institution is likely to last, a formula for figuring out how high to build a wall so a ...more
Jerry Smith
As a dedicated math hater and one who finds mathematical expressions of anything confusing and frustrating, I thought this might be a good book for me. It is quite fun and there are several items of interest among the 100 chapters.

The book is written in small snippets - each chapter tackles a differnet topic and they are all 2 to 5 pages long at the most. Some are much more mathematical than others. Indeed, some seem to be only very remotely related to math which makes the subject for that chap
Simon Watkins
I think this book is most likely to appeal to those who already have a good grounding in mathematics and physics, but have never thought to apply them to the mundane or quirky. For example, there are brief articles on queue selection, how to run a marathon, roller coaster design, the life-saving value of calculus, how to win the lottery (not that helpful, actually), how to get a smooth ride on a bike with square wheels (still less helpful, but surprising). Each section is but two to three pages ...more
This is a neat little nonfiction book, easy to read in short snippets (which of course is why I read it straight through - no, seriously, it's less tiring than one great big book). I'd heard many of the things the title claims I "didn't know" before, and some of them are only very tangentially related to math, but it's well-written and fun to read anyway. I especially liked the Brit-centric writing; nonfiction books intended primarily for US audiences often have a certain air of hypersensitivity ...more
The book is comprised of 100 short chapters of 2-3 pages in length. I spent a week reading this book (it feels more like reading a blog where the author's goal is brevity), and a day later....I can probably name 5 memorable topics, and 2 were interesting enough for me to wikipedia the idea presented in the short chapter. And probably half the topics will be very familiar to those people who would possibly check this book out from the library. The book seems to be a series of "abstract" summaries ...more
This book tries really hard to make mathematics interesting but even after compressing so many different short stories into brief chapters that cover a couple of pages each, I still couldn't find the topics covered to be at all interesting. There were a few nuggets in there that made it semi-worthwhile though, such as the mention of a couple of obscure and funny incidents and/or websites. "Pylon of the Month" is one of those sites.

Skim. Don't read. Definitely don't purchase.
Kris McCracken
This book explores one hundred conundrums, questions and queries through the lens of mathematics. The book runs through infinite monkeys banging out Shakespearean plays on typewriters, your odds of winning the lottery, horse races, divorce, Google, game theory, infinity and chaos; there is much to enjoy here even if Maths is something other than your strong point. While the book is (happily) not dumbed down at all, it remains jammed to the brim with equations sure to make you squirm.
María Teresa
this book was really interesting because it was all based on math explained on simple ways and contained a lot of really interesting things about our world most of the time we don't notice. It also contained some things I already knew and some others that I wouldn't consider essential but all of them were really interesting; for example: did you know that there are bicycles with squared wheels? (and they actually work)
As an engineer and fairly geeky person, I did know I did know a lot stuff in this book already. And I think even non-geeks would know some of these things. Or at least know they don't know it...

Some of the explanations would have been easier to understand with a diagram, equation, or chart. And I think the author could have gone deeper on some topics.
Excellent book that one can learn a great deal from, indeed! It incorporates many everyday things that affect our lives and analyzes them from a concise mathematical perspective! There is quite a few chapters dealing with physics topics as well, such as mechanics, special and general relativity as well! So, I definitely recommend this book!
An interesting book. This book contains 100 things that are not really essential but interesting, and most of them I didn't know. These things are usually mathematical or physical in nature. Some are extremely interesting, and others are somewhat dull. It's a great book for real light reading; some of the things mentioned really make you think!
Craig Jorgensen
You probably know some of the "100 things" already, but there are going to be some new things also. Great book to read in bite-size chunks, since each of the "100 things" is just a few pages and there is no real continuity between them; so you can pick it up and read a few chapters whenever you have a few minutes.
Para quem gosta de Matemática este livro é simplesmente fantástico. Quem não gosta, ficará interessado em alguns temas mas noutros achará que o autor utilizou demasiadas fórmulas para explicar os seus raciocínios, o que que complica um pouco a vida a quem não está familiarizado com essa área do saber.
Ken Rideout
It was kind of like reading a series of 100 random blog entries about random things from the mind of a mathematician. Some were great observations, some were kind of lame. A great casual read since each of the 100 chapters were only 2-3 pages and you could skip around easily.
It's a really interesting book and a quick read. Some of the math is beyond me, but that's not why I only gave it 4 stars. The book is very Brit-centric, which made it a little less accessible for an American audience. Not a flaw really, just a caveat for future readers.
Should really be titled 100 blog entries you might want to read. Then again, you might not. I think the best was #100, as I had not heard of the global village "State of the Village Report" or it's revisions.
Ellena Lawrence

Good book for anyone who likes math and critical thinking some of the ideas/math concepts are a little tricky if you don't have a background in math. Even if you're not a math buff some of the ideas will change the way you think about everyday life
Some fun columns. I think it would be better if I understood more about math (what with all the formulas and all). That said, the parts I did understand were really interesting (such as why they use triangles to build power towers).
Not what I expected, I skimmed it super fast, most just read the intros, way too much math - yes, I know it is in the math section so what did I expect, really? Ummm, I expected more? Anyway, moving on...
William Lubold
By all rights, I should have loved this book. I did not. It takes a special kind of writer to take an interesting topic and make a boring book out of it. And by "special," I mean, "bad." There you go.
The book covers a lot of interesting topics, but just not in very much depth. Many of the topics felt incomplete to me, and many did not seem all that mathematical. Still, it was probably worth the read.
Of course there were awesome things, but overall, mostly pretty boring stuff. Each "thing" is presented within a page or two which doesn't allow for much discussion or consideration.
this promised to be an interesting read, but the entries were short and sometimes seemed rushed. it might have benefited from having fewer chapters and going into more detail.
Fun read. A little too simple here and there but does hit some of the most interesting/surprising math/stats in everyday life.
Matthewmartinmurray murray
Really good book. Short anecdotes that are easy to understand and neat to learn about. Many interesting things included.
Rebecca Stevenson
Interesting; kind of fluffy in places; way too many examples involving cricket. I'll likely dip into it again.
Jan 05, 2013 Beth marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So far, interesting. I've always enjoyed the 'idea' of math .. I wish I were smarter, so I'd understand it better.
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John D. Barrow is a professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in Cambridge, UK.
More about John D. Barrow...
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“Any universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind able to understand it

-Barrow's Uncertainty Principle”
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