*A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper*, John Allen Paulos

Ah, unrequited love. I love maths, but maths doesnt love me. Still, it likes me enough for me to learn a lot from books like this. And I, like most people, do need to learn a lot about maths, because not knowing about it can lead you to make all sorts of mistakes and fall into all kinds of misunderstandings.

So we need more people like the mathematician John Allen Paulos, who knows a lot about maths and can express what he knows simply and entertainingly. This book is one of those that divide your life into BR and AR Before Reading and After Reading because it changes the way you look at the world. Take politics and important questions like the way we vote and the way power blocs work. Paulos examines all sorts of paradoxes and contradictions in both and you should come out of that section understanding the imperfections and dangers of democracy a lot better, as well as knowing that its possible to create a set of four dice, A, B, C, and D, in which A beats B, B beats C, C beats D, and D beats A.

Impossible? No, its very simple

Pauloss answers are, respectively, no, not necessarily, and no, not necessarily. What is true of a general population is not necessarily true of its extremes:

__against__discrimination can make its supposed effects worse.

Look before you leap, in other ways, and look with mathematically trained eyes. It will help you in all sorts of ways, from not being taken in by fallacious political arguments to not being ripped off. Suppose, Paulos asks, a pile of potatoes is left out in the sun. Its 99% water and weighs 100 pounds. A day later, its 98% water. How much does it weigh now?

If you cant work out the answer then you might be on your way to losing a lot of money if someone who does know it looks after your money or investments. Paulos explains the answer which, surprisingly (or not), is 50 pounds very clearly and simply, the way he explains the answers of all the other little puzzles he drops into the text as he discusses gossip, celebrity, cooking, bargains, infectious disease, and a myriad of other subjects that maths can either illuminate or obfuscate, depending on how well you understand it and the logic that underlies it.

__once you know how__. Or take the much vexed question of discrimination. Women are 50% of the population and blacks are (depending where you live) 5% and you should therefore expect them to be 50% and 5%, respectively, of MPs or bishops or disc-jockeys or senior managers in confectionery factories, shouldn't you? And if they aren't, that's clear proof of discrimination, isn't it?

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