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The Book of Numbers: The Secret of Numbers and How They Changed the World Paperback – February 15, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books (February 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554073618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554073610
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.9 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Beautifully illustrated with art reproductions, photographs and other images, this book is a fascinating read.... A thorough understanding of all kinds of number concepts--zero, rational numbers, irrational numbers, binary numbers, and imaginary numbers--should be part of every mathematics and student's and educator's general knowledge. This book, intended for a general audience, would serve as a good reference for mathematics students as well as preservice and in-service educators. (Cathleen M. Zucco-Teveloff, Rowan University Mathematics Teacher, Vol. 102, No. 7 2009-03-00)

BBC contributor and professor of pop science Peter J. Bentley brings the kind of enthusiasm and excitement to numbers that would well serve any high school math teacher This whimsically organized book (with chapters -1, 0 and 12a, for those afraid of 13) is a quirky and refereshing review of the science of numbers.... You might emerg from this book still baffled by sines, cosines and tangents, but [Bentley's] affection for understanding numbers is infectious. (Bill Bean Waterloo Region Record 2008-06-21)

Mathematics, perhaps surprisingly, can be far more entertaining than the average high-school textbook lets on.... Bentley's account doubtless does not lay bare all of the mathematical secrets of the universe. But with illustrations, graphics and sidebar digressions, the presentation is a colourful and variegated companion to the most ubiquitous and deceptive components of knowledge. (Evan Wexler The Globe and Maill 2008-07-05)

No. 5, New and Notable Books about Numbers, Scientific American. "Numbers rule our lives," says Bentley, who then tells how and why this is so. (Scientific American 2008-05-01)

[starred review] Peter J. Bentley's The Book of Numbers is quite an interesting read.... While this is a fairly out of the ordinary and informative book, it is written somewhat like a textbook which makes it a bit of a difficult read for longer periods of time. Though this may be the case, the layout is quite entertaining for the reader, with all kinds of unusual computer imagery, historical paintings and drawings, along with portraits of mathematicians scattered throughout.... I would, however, recommend it to anyone with even a remote interest in how numbers have completely changed the course of the world and how they are a giant part of how everything works. (Heather Steacy The Lethbridge Herald 2008-11-15)

Book of Numbers proves that numbers are neither dull nor boring. The text is accompanied by great photos, illustrations, and explanatory sidebars. Worth the read. Book of Numbers proves that numbers are neither dull nor boring. The text is accompanied by great photos, illustrations, and explanatory sidebars. Worth the read. (Calliope 2010-08-00)

This is a beautifully put together book that should be brought into every math classroom... It could bring to students that necessary curiosity that enables them to enjoy mathematics. (David Stahnke Annotopia 2010-11-23)

About the Author

Peter J. Bentley is a senior research fellow and professor at the Department of Computer Science, University College London, and is well known for his prolific research covering all aspects of evolutionary computation and digital biology. He is the author of the popular science book Digital Biology and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark H. Van Tuyl on September 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Any book with chapter numbers like -1, 0, .00000000001, e, c and i is worth reading. That read has been quite enjoyable except for the errors which occur throughout. For example, the number 79 is rendered in Roman numerals as LXXVIIII rather than LXXIX (page 19) and on page 48 (as noted by another reviewer) the assertion is made that "And, you guessed it, 9 and 2 are prime numbers". Since 9 has 3 as a factor, it clearly isn't prime. Several more examples could be cited, but these will give you an idea of what to expect.

Overall, the book is very enjoyable and written in an easily accessible manner. I just wish that the proofreading and editing had been more thorough.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By MJ Schmidgall on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
With a title like Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Computer Science, University College London," one would expect Peter J. Bentley's work to be quite good. Dr. Bentley's bio on his website clearly communicates that this is a man who is quite intelligent. His work outside of writing is a strong indicator that he is a cut or two above the norm.

As such, there is no excuse for some of the outright errors in his writing. Trivial errors that a first year math major knows to avoid.

When discussing prime and composite numbers, Dr. Bentley uses the number 72 to illustrate how any number that is not prime can be broken down into a product of prime factors. He states that 72 = 4 * 18, and 18 = 2 * 9 and 4 = 2 * 2. Thus the factors are 2 * 2 * 2 * 9. "And, you guessed it, both 9 and 2 are prime numbers." Call me crazy, but 9 is not a prime number. It is a composite of 3 * 3, where 3 IS prime. A mistake like this is utter carelessness.

The next paragraph leaves no time for respite. When speaking of how Euclid proved this concept he states "He didn't just hope that his theorem was true. If he relied on hope, we'd still be calling it a ---theory.---" The mathematical word Dr. Bentley was looking for here is "Conjecture." A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world. By saying something would be a theory if it was unsubstantiated, he propogates a continuing myth about science and knowledge.

And Dr. Bentley does not seem the type to want to promote that area of misunderstanding. In fact, much of his writing intimates a strong bias against religious belief and persons (The people who so often claim that evolution is "just a theory").
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amy Schexnayder on April 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
i am only on the 3rd or 4th chapter (the chapters aren't numbered traditionally so off the top of my head...i don't know).

this is a great book all about the history of numbers and how we came to use them in everyday life and in higher sciences. it includes philosophy information (which is a hit with me) and is in depth without being overwhelming. i have read other math history books which essentially cover the same topics (the history isn't any different, no matter how its written), but i prefer this one. it has graphs, diagrams, and lots of historical images. it also has side bar items to explain some of the theories as they are 'discovered' in time.

i've read euclid's window, which is a math history book that made me fall in love with the subject of numbers and history (and made me pursue a double degree in mathematics and philosophy). i like this one better, if only for the photos, but i do recommend them both!
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Format: Paperback
Whatever their personal focus is in mathematics, all mathematicians have a reverent love for numbers. Many other people also possess a fascination with numbers; this manifests itself in the large number of numeric puzzles that have appeared over the years, currently expressed in the popularity of Sudoku puzzles. Bentley writes about the history of numbers, in all cases providing an accurate and engaging social, mathematical and historical context for the discovery of new aspects of numbers.
Whatever their social environment, people are people, politics is politics and social structure is social structure. There is tradition and change and resistance against that change; this is true even in science in mathematics where it is often the case that the greatest resistance to new ideas comes from people that in the past authored powerful change.
Bentley writes in a style that is well within the reach of people lacking an initial detailed understanding of the numbers yet can also retain the interest of professional mathematicians. It would be an excellent text for light histories of mathematics, where the students are looking for points to begin a detailed exploration in the form of a research paper or presentation. Unfortunately, you do have to overlook a few errors.
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