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Counting Body Parts

John AllenPaulos: Born to Count, 20 January 2000

The Mathematical Brain 
by Brian Butterworth.
Macmillan, 446 pp., £20, April 1999, 0 333 73527 7
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... Most people nowadays who claim to lack a ‘mathematical brain’ can easily sit down to multiply 231 by 34 or divide 2119 by 138 and come up with the answers. Yet in the 15th century Northern European merchants had to send their mathematically gifted sons to Italy to learn how to accomplish these feats. Arabic numerals were not yet in wide use, and German universities weren’t the place to find out about the arcane arts of multiplication and division ...

Think about it

John AllenPaulos, 11 March 1993

Irrationality: The Enemy Within 
by Stuart Sutherland.
Constable, 357 pp., £14.95, November 1992, 0 09 471220 4
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... Studies have shown repeatedly that children with bigger feet reason better than do those with smaller feet. Many of you have probably noticed this very strong correlation yourselves. Of course, there is no causal connection here. Children with bigger feet reason better because they’re older. Irrationality: The Enemy Within is about the mistakes, misconceptions, and unfounded assumptions that muddle decision-making in everyday life and in a wide variety of occupations ...

Concini and the Squirrel

Peter Campbell, 24 May 1990

by John AllenPaulos.
135 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 670 83008 9
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The Culture of Print 
edited by Roger Chartier.
351 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 7456 0575 3
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Symbols of Ideal Life 
by Maren Stange.
Cambridge, 190 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 521 32441 6
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The Lines of My Hand 
by Robert Frank.
£30, September 1989, 0 436 16256 3
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... a sane, amusing, unintimidating introduction to the consequences of mathematical illiteracy, John AllenPaulos shows how a little arithmetic can cast light on the cohesiveness of cultures. He quotes an experiment in which the psychologist Stanley Milgrim gave each member of a randomly-selected group of people a ...

The Plot to Make Us Stupid

David Runciman, 22 February 1996

... Why is it,’ asks the mathematician John AllenPaulos in his book about the pitfalls of innumeracy, ‘that a lottery ticket with the numbers 2 13 17 20 29 36 is for most people far preferable to one with the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6?’ It is not an easy question to answer ...

See you in court, pal

John Lanchester: The Microsoft Trial, 30 September 1999

The Nudist on the Late Shift 
by Po Bronson.
Secker, 248 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 436 20477 0
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Infinite Loop: How Apple, the World’s Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane 
by Michael Malone.
Aurum, 598 pp., £18.99, April 1999, 1 85410 638 4
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Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet 
by Michael Woolf.
Orion, 364 pp., £7.99, June 1999, 0 7528 2606 9
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The Cathedral and the Bazaar: revised edition 
by Eric S. Raymond.
O'Reilly, 256 pp., £11.95, February 2001, 0 596 00108 8
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... become the world’s first trillionaire. That means he will be worth a thousand billionaires. As John AllenPaulos demonstrated in his book Innumeracy, most of us have a poor grasp of what numbers on this scale mean; so take a second to guess, intuitively, what you think the difference in time is between a million ...

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