Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors” as Want to Read:
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,551 ratings  ·  151 reviews
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.

Paperback, 314 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Allen Lane
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Humble Pi, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Jennifer Robb
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,551 ratings  ·  151 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Turns out that pi's not as humble as one could imagine. That many people actually did die as a result of many of the errors is tragic and definitely takes most of fun from the comedy. The unfortunate book name aside, it's a magnificent read into how maths go bump in everywhere.

‘Plaintiff’s insistence that the commercial appears to be a serious offer requires the Court to explain why the commercial is funny. Explaining why a joke is funny is a daunting task.’ (c)
I went with my favourite
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maths, non-fiction
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
Mark Loughridge
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
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Collection of anecdotes, some of which I knew, but the bulk of them I did not. Explanations for "uninitiated" are neither long-winded nor tedious, stories are quite interesting, and I found that the book flows really well. Can recommend
Brian Clegg
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science
A Christmas present book from a relative in recognition of my past technical career.
Each chapter a nugget of information about some ‘maths’ error that has caused us problems in everyday life. I put ‘maths’ in inverted commas as many of the issues may be a poor engineering implementation of some analysis. As each chapter is independent of others it’s easy to dip in and out of the book when one fancies light relief from the more serious business of reading fiction!

Not normally a book I’d review on
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not so much a comedy since most errors ended up as tragedy. And yet, it is an important book to be written - what with mushrooming engineering colleges churning out supposed engineers every year!

The author doesn't dumb it down and hence some of the places are tough to comprehend. At the same time, the errors which were non-tragic and even funny (like Gandhi going all nuclear thanks to math error) were explained with so much passion that make your trivia quotient.

Some of the concepts were high
Purnesh Tripathi
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Humble Pi is a brilliant piece of writing which will make you laugh at least once on every page. Matt is a mathematician and you can easily tell that even if you don't have much background about him, by his style of writing.

The book's 11th Chapter in particular was so breathtakingly gripping, that I finished it in one go. Even the other parts of the book read like an epic collection of short stories, each of which, combined with excellent writing skills, provide for am exhilerating experience.

Craig Fiebig
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
What if one-third of all spreadsheets included at least one formulaic error? What if the reason the shuttle crashed was not narrowly due to brittle o-rings but because the estimates of reliability themselves were fundamentally flawed? Parker takes the reader on a fun tour of our societal reliance on robust arithmetic ("maths" in his quaintly Queen's own rendition) and the degree to which our 'maths' are riddled with error. Although his search for humor tends toward trying too hard the work ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Summary: not very interesting, and it's not about maths errors.

This book is a collection of anecdotes that you can read anywhere: most of them I had read before, and you can find them on the internet, too. They're bundled by theme here, which is convenient, but the writer tries too hard to make them appear connected, and more often than not that results in uninspired paragraphs. Here's an example from a random page:

"But what happens when computers try to divide by zero? Unless they've been
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
"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.
Ondrej Urban
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This time it's a fuor-and-a-half stars, not that it will hurt Matt in any way. Humble Pi (love both the title and the cover design) talks about mathematical errors that happen or happened in the past. From MS Excel being too smart for its own good to programmers taking intended or unintended shortcuts that cause everything from annoyance to death, this book covers most of it.

Unlike Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Matt's other book, this one will not make your head hurt and brain
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did I just listen to an over 9 hour audiobook that was solely about math?

Did I completely enjoy myself?

From this book, I learned that the author has strong feelings about using excel as a database, calendars are complicated, and puns are the purest form of humor.

If you are not the best at math (like myself) I highly suggest listening to this book because Matt makes it so easy and entertaining.
Jane Hill
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooked
I was a bit worried a maths book would be tricky to follow as an audiobook, but I also like how Matt Parker explains things, so I was delighted he reads the audio version himself - it works very well! Occasionally the numbers were more of an inscrutable chant than actual information I was taking in, but it was still a good romp through various maths-related screw-ups of varying seriousness. Good fun.
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is probably very good, if you get numbers.
I never have. Got a D for Maths at school, retook it a year later at college and got an E. I kid you not. Definately a word girl.
But I do nod my head to numbers and their importance. Saw this book and thought I'd try and reestablish a relationship. Alas its no good - we're just not meant to be.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is a fun read. I would say it is more geared towards software errors than math errors, so if you like computer science, you will appreciate it. Only downside: if you follow the author on his YouTube channel, you will have heard already about a sizable fraction of all the facts presented.

I actually listened to the audiobook version, and the fact that the author himself narrated the book adds a lot to the experience, in this case.
Mykhailo Kozik
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a collection of real-life stories (maybe with some fictional details to make them sound more interesting) about math, and casualties, which may be caused by math errors.

Broken bridges, overdosed patients, missed missiles, crashed satellites and day-to-day misconceptions are beautifully explained by author, with a good amount of jokes.

Recommend to read.
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
It is an easy read which is quite hilarious. Despite the author is sometimes being too shallow on particular topics, I learned some new interesting facts and I can now definitely talk about bridges of all sorts.
Lots of interesting anecdotes. Sometimes the math and science explanations went over my head. Quite funny.
Lyndon Teng
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mostly light hearted, sometimes sobering, but thoroughly entertaining! Reads a bit like a "horrible science" book (from my distant childhood).
E Lim
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Entertaining read. The mix of stories, some humorous and some very tragic, raises awareness on common erroneous assumptions that leads to these errors.
Bella H
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny, thought-provoking and very interesting - a great book for anyone who is interested in engineering, physics, maths or programming.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
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.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Books about numbers shouldn't be this fun or funny. I like Matt Parker's style, he makes maths not only interesting but accessible.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, audiobooks
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
St Fu
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Making mistakes, especially when dealing with abstractions, is easy and common. In the software world, one saying is "There are no non-trivial programs without bugs." Another one goes "Testing can show the presence of bugs but never their absence." Most of us have heard of Murphy's law. I'm surprised that things tend to work as well as they do and at how confident we can be that we got things right. This book can be seen as a kind of sober celebration of this state of affairs along with some ...more
Peter Jones
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Don McKenzie
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please set page number 3 29 Apr 14, 2019 01:41AM  
Author 1 6 Mar 18, 2019 07:49AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems
  • Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms
  • The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas
  • The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data
  • Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
  • The Book of the Year 2019
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants
  • Change is the Only Constant: The Wisdom of Calculus in a Madcap World
  • Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives
  • Sunfall
  • Every Tool's a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It
  • Maths on the Back of an Envelope: Clever ways to (roughly) calculate anything
  • Terminus (Threshold, #4)
  • The Creativity Code: How AI Is Learning to Write, Paint and Think
  • Math with Bad Drawings
  • The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
  • Permanent Record
See similar books…
Matt Parker is a former maths teacher who communicates about mathematics via YouTube videos, stand-up comedy, and books.
“one thing is causing another. There is always the chance that something else is influencing the data, causing the link. Between 1993 and 2008 the police in Germany were searching for the mysterious ‘phantom of Heilbronn’, a woman who had been linked to forty crimes, including six murders; her DNA had been found at all the crime scenes. Tens of thousands of police hours were spent looking for Germany’s ‘most dangerous woman’ and there was a €300,000 bounty on her head. It turns out she was a woman who worked in the factory that made the cotton swabs used to collect DNA evidence. And, of course,” 1 likes
“In February 2007, six F-22s were flying from Hawaii to Japan when all their systems crashed at once. All navigation systems went offline, the fuel systems went, and even some of the communication systems were out. This was not triggered by an enemy attack or clever sabotage. The aircraft had merely flown over the International Date Line.” 0 likes
More quotes…