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Review: 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know by John Barrow

[ 6 ] August 19, 2010 |

Reviewed by Caleb S.

While the title 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know is a bit of hyperbole, it is still a fun and interesting read. I happen to like math so I was able to follow along when it was explained. However, well over half of the chapters contain little or any actual math. There are even two or three math ‘tricks’ that non-math people can easily use to stump others. One chapter explains why spaghetti noodles break into at least three pieces when bent to the breaking point without using actual math. Another explains conditions that can happen at a race track that will guarantee winnings if the correct betting method is followed. There is also a decent explanation of the Monty Hall problem.

100 Essential Things is fairly low key on the math and most people will find the facts inside quite interesting. A few chapters are more involved but could be easily skipped for those who find math to be a chore. Overall, I found the book to be a fun little read, taking a chapter or two at a time in between other activities. I learned a bit, I was reminded of some things I had forgotten and gained new insights along the way. All in all, the read was well worth my time.

Caleb is a software engineer and amature woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

This book was provided free of any obligation by W. W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Gift Ideas, Mathematics/Science, Non Fiction

Comments (6)

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  1. 6
    Carol Wong says:

    Not a math person here so I probably would have even picked it up to look at it.

    My husband is a great fan of math maybe he would enjoy it. He is the only person that I know of who can cut a pie into five perfectly equal pieces.

    Carol Wong

  2. 5
    Colleen Turner says:

    Wow, not a huge fan of math, but I do like finding the answers to things I didn’t know (great for conversation). I am sure there are way more than 100 things I don’t know that involve math though :). Since I had my son I seemed to have dropped some of my brains clear out of my head, so it would be great to add some more facts back in :)!

  3. 4
    Sharon Young says:

    I have to use math a lot in my job as a nurse, figuring out doses, converting in metric terms and lots of hourly addition. Sure, I usually am using a calculator, but I don’t give my need, or my like/dislike of math much thought. To me, math is just part of the job, part of the day.

    However, I might like knowing some additional essentials, like 100 of them. I like to tuck small bits of information in my brain that I might be able to use on Jeopardy someday when I am retired and want to be on television. So bring it on, I am ready.
    Sharon Young recently posted..Shopping for Spanish Tile and Random Design Tips

  4. 3
    RivkaBelle says:

    haha … Math? It can explain everything? Wow, maybe Mum was right when she said I should’ve been a math major ;) LOL! Sounds like an interesting concept … Anything to learn random trivia bits to spring on people during awkward silences or to throw an imminent argument off track ;)

  5. 2
    Jen says:

    I completely misread the title and thought it was “100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know” and thought there are way, way more things I don’t than just 100. Plus I missed the “Math Explains Your World” part, so I was thoroughly confused. Geez!

    But I did go back and reread to straighten myself out. I like and understand math, although I’m terrible at match in my head, which makes me feel very stupid. This book might be something that I would need to flip through at the library or a bookstore before I committed myself to a full read.
    Jen recently posted..Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster

  6. 1
    Steve Capell says:

    This sounds like an interesting read. I could add these 100 things to a million other things that I didn’t know. Seems like the older I get the more I relize how much I truly do not know.

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