Employing intuitive ideas from mathematics, this quirky "meta-memoir" raises questions about our lives that most of us don't think to ask but arguably should: What part of memory is reliable fact, what part creative embellishment? Which favorite presuppositions are unfounded, which statistically biased? By conjoining two opposing mind-sets - the suspension of disbelief required in storytelling and the skepticism inherent in the scientific method - best-selling mathematician John Allen Paulos has created an unusual hybrid, a composite of personal memories and mathematical approaches to reevaluating them.
Entertaining vignettes from Paulos's biography abound - ranging from a bullying math teacher and a fabulous collection of baseball cards to romantic crushes, a grandmother's petty larceny, and his quite unintended role in getting George Bush elected president in 2000. These vignettes serve as springboards to many telling perspectives: Simple arithmetic puts lifelong habits in a dubious new light; higher-dimensional geometry helps us see that we're all rather peculiar; nonlinear dynamics explains the narcissism of small differences cascading into very different siblings; logarithms and exponentials yield insight on why we tend to become bored and jaded as we age; and there are tricks and jokes, probability and coincidences, and much more.
For fans of Paulos or newcomers to his work, this witty commentary on his life - and yours - is fascinating listening.
"There's nothing more enlightening than a view of life's nuances as seen through the lens of a mathematician. Especially when that mathematician is John Allen Paulos, a brilliant educator who persistently empowers the reader to think in ways that render transparent much of what is opaque in the world around us." (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History)
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