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Why Do Buses Come in Threes? The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life 1st Edition

23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471379072
ISBN-10: 0471379077
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you've ever bought a Lotto ticket and wondered about your bad luck afterward, you've had to deal with math. From timing to probability, it pervades our every waking moment, and even the most crippling math phobia can't make it go away. Writers Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham throw up their hands in defeat and give in to the amusing, interesting, and practical aspects of math in Why Do Buses Come in Threes? Taking their title from the oft-noticed phenomenon of clumping in mass transit, they explain in clear, commonsense language why this must be so. At the end of their description, you might be left with the uneasy sense that you just learned some math, and on quick review, you'll find that the authors have in fact snuck some in under your radar. In chapter after chapter, Eastaway and Wyndham successfully navigate statistics, codes, coincidences, and many other parts of our lives, peeling away the surface to show what's really going on to make things so weird and wonderful. Diagrams and drawings help to make their points even clearer, and there are almost never any scary formulas to frighten the timid. If you've been waiting your whole life to learn the "Ham Sandwich Theorem," or just want to put some old fears to rest, Why Do Buses Come in Threes? is the solution. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'An interesting read for even the most maths-phobic' - The Good Book Guide --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (February 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471379077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471379072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Noah R. Freeman on February 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a superb sampler of interesting aspects of math. I found it very similiar to "A mathemetician reads the newspaper" by Paulos (also a great book). People who like Paulos will like this book a lot.
Parts that I particularly loved were the coverage of sections not treated in other, similiar texts. How fast to run in the rain to stay the driest, how to cut oddly shaped cakes into equal parts, etc.
Parts that I found the least exciting were the re-treatments of the stuff of standard layman's math books- does the world need another description of the travelling salesman problem, or Fibonacci sequences throughout nature? (though these descriptions are better than most that Ive read)
Overall, this book was very enjoyable. If you've read no "math and the world books" you will think it is 5 stars, and if you've read many of them you will think 4 stars (or just skip those chapters)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "christianskeptic" on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
this is an entertaining look at math and how it permeates our lives and pervades nature. the authors cover a variety of topics ranging from explaining coincidences to why we always get stuck in traffic jams. the best chapter is ch.1, titled Why can't I find a four leaf clover? they explain how Fibonacci's series turn up so often in plants (the number of petals, for example, is always a, or a multiple of, a fibonacci number), as well as the golden ratio, pi, and why cells in beehives are shaped like hexagons. the pervasiveness of hidden mathematics in nature can make one wonder whether there's an intelligence behind it all.
the book also contains a number of mathematical formulas. i remember reading somewhere that for every equation given in a book, sales drop by 5000 (or some number like that). Hopefully that won't happen here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Some people have a fear of mathematics, possibly because of the abstract teaching methods that were in use in my schooldays. I get the impression that things have changed somewhat since then, but in any case this book provides an easy to understand look at some of the things that happen in everyday life.

The first chapter begins with numbers that occur frequently in plants, explaining why four-leafed clovers are rare. Depending on the species, plants tend to have three leaves like clovers, or five leaves like buttercups, pansies and primroses, rather than four. The chapter then describes more curiosities about numbers and ratios that occur in plants.

The ninth chapter deals with the title of the book, explaining why buses that begin their journeys at evenly spaced intervals and travelling along the same route don't usually arrive at their destination at evenly spaced intervals. The author suggests that it is quite common for a bus to catch up the one ahead, but that it is most unlikely that a third bus will catch these two, so buses may come in twos but rarely threes.

Other chapters deal with route planning, opinion polls, betting, apparent coincidences, angles, making tea, cutting cake, secret codes, sports rankings, game theory, set theory, map reading, traffic jams, queues, scheduling, logic and deduction. If some of these sound intimidating, don't worry as they are all presented in an easy-going style that makes them more interesting than they might otherwise be.

The final chapter presents a few mathematical tricks that you can play on unsuspecting children as a good way to get them interested in numbers. All in all, this book presents mathematics in an entertaining and easily accessible way. If you enjoy it, there is a sequel, How long is a piece of string?, by the same author, but if you are choosing between them, I'd nominate this one is slightly the better of the two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Johnston on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
The two messages of this book are that mathematics is important to everyday life, and that it's fun. Like the earlier books of Martin Gardener, this book aims to make mathematics relevant and accessible, but with a British rather than American slant.

Have you ever wondered why flowers often have five petals, how bookies' odds work, how you always end up in the slowest queue, or, indeed, why buses come in threes? If so, then this is the book for you.

In the course of a humorous, chatty discourse on the mysteries of life the authors introduce a number of branches of mathematics, including probability, topology, statistics and queuing theory, to name just a few.

To aid casual readers or those who've previously found the subject forbidding the maths is kept at a fairly simple level. However there's still enough detail to be useful in other applications. I used this book as a reminder when trying to solve a problem related to software performance, and others who don't exercise their maths every day might also find it a useful memory jogger.

Whether as an introduction if you've never enjoyed maths before, or a reminder if you have, I thoroughly recommend this book. I can also recommend the companion volume "How Long is a Piece of String?"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By lofey on November 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This lovely little book never fails to bring revelation as I read through the chapters. Praise should be given to the authors, not only for their insights in revealing the mathematical basis of ordinary issues, but also for their enthusiasm in promoting popular science through this successful work.

Interesting examples from daily life capable of arousing curiosity were utilized to illustrate otherwise "serious" mathematical concepts: temperature of shower water (negative-feedback), dating (game-theory), "wonder numbers" in nature (golden ratio), bad luck (probability)......etc. Concepts were well-elaborated, conducted in a comprehensive and attractive, but never shallow or over-simplified, manner. The authors were just good at alluring readers to think and explore things more than "skin-deep", beyond what they seems like at surface. The writing style is attractive and humorous.

This book is of immense value in enhancing reasoning, critical thinking and, most importantly, appreciation of life itself. Highly recommended.
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