Book – Adam Spencer’s Book of Numbers
Author – Adam Spencer
Year – 2000
Genre – Maths
Pages – 214
It is a little bit of a guilty secret of mine that I actually quite enjoy maths. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I think that numbers can be quite fun. So a book that takes all of the numbers from one to one hundred and tells us a little bit about them sounded fun. Oh, how wrong I can be. Spencer has made a list of the first hundred numbers and dedicates a page or two to each of them, giving us some mathematical insight into them, or some cultural insight, or just how they affect the modern world. Well, that is what he claims he is doing. Instead we get a bit of a mess.
First the mathematical facts. Well quite frankly, most of them are dull. A note at the beginning of each section telling us that it is a prime number or an abundant number is the sum of most of it. We do get an explanation of the more obscure things which is nice, but very few of them hold much interest, and are not the kind of thing that you can go telling your friends as a nice bit of trivia. There is one section that explains a pretty cool little unsolved maths problem (take any number, if it is even then halve it, if it is odd then times it by three and add one. Do the same to your result and carry on. You will always end up at 1.) I had heard it before, but it is still a cool maths thing. However, it takes up pretty much the entirety of 92. It has no particular connection to 92, as it works for any number, but he had evidently run out of things to say by this point, so shoehorned it in somehow.
Although he probably needn’t have bothered. Most of the pop culture facts are rubbish. A large amount of space in the book is taken up with TV programmes and how many episodes there were – not even in the whole series sometimes, as 90 shows us that this is the episode number of the first episode of the last series of MacGyver, although it continued for another seventeen shows, so is actually nothing to do with 90 then – or basic statements of fact – The Beach Boys had an album called 20/20 is a fact under 20, but not an interesting one by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot imagine why anybody would think that these are actual interesting pieces of information. Why not take a number such as 13 and explore the reasons behind why it is seen as an unlucky number. That would actually be an interesting read instead of insipid pieces of non-trivia.
However, even dull trivia is preferable to incorrect trivia, and that is seen by the bucket load. After a while I started looking for it and noting it for this blog (yes, I am that sad). The one that annoyed me most was that the gang in Scooby Doo are called Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Velma and Alan. I have Googled it (which Spencer seems to have used for most of this book, but evidently not this one) and I can see no reference to Alan having ever been a member of the gang, unless it is an alias of Fred. Also included is ‘If you leave a photocopier on 99 copies then it will genuinely piss of at least 1 person’. This is a completely redundant statement! Aside from the fact that it could say 58 or 104 or any other number – including 2, as it is frustrating as hell when it happens – so what? It isn’t actually a ‘fact’ and is not funny, and useless for a book like this.
Although while we are looking at nonsense that could be under any number let’s include that under 65 we have that Jackie Chan has appeared in over 65 movies (so list that fact under the actual number of movies he has appeared in seeing as how the sole purpose of your soulless little book is to tell us something about the numbers rather than put in a statement including an arbitrary nod at any number you fancy) and the same goes for the inclusion of the ‘fact’ that sea lions may mate with more than 100 females. Of course, they may not. They may mate with less. And we have already hedged our bets by announcing that it may be more. So this should read ‘Sealions, and some other animals mate with others from their species any number between none and hundreds of times.’ But then that wouldn’t have been interesting. Like this book.
Well, at least it provided a ranty blog, which hasn’t happened for a while. I wouldn’t bother with this at all. Unless you love awful things that are dreadful. Then give it a whirl.
2/10 (there were very, very small glimpses of okay facts in it which along with it giving me a chance to write a blog of book-hating, gives it a couple of marks)