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Monday, November 08, 2021

Review: The Math of Life and Death

 While Bowen was in pre-school, there would be days when he would regress, going from playing with challenging problems to something dumb and simple. On those days, I would comment that he'd taken a stupid pill, and just wanted to do something that wasn't an intellectual challenge.

I must have picked up The Math of Life & Death on one of those days when I'd taken a stupid pill. The book doesn't really describe anything I didn't already know, even to the point of rehashing the old Google interview question involving the Birthday Paradox.

While I was working my way through this book, on a bike ride Bowen asked me why even though we're on the decimal system, directions and time were described in minutes and seconds, which were in base 12. And I had just read the section of the book the day before about how certain human cultures counted in base 12 by counting the knuckles of the fingers of one hand (excluding the thumb), which added to 12, while using the other hand to count off the number of 1-12 cycles, which is how you got 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, and 12 hours per half day.

Dang, I did learn something from this book after all! The book is transparently written and entertaining with all sorts of factoids like this that kept me going. And hey, it must not have been a stupid pill if it made me sound like a knowledgeable dad to my (now cynical and difficult to impress) 9 year old.

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