[ ONLINE Humble Pi ] ´ Matt Parker – nikeshoxoutlet.us
Lots of interesting anecdotes Sometimes the math and science explanations went over my head uite funny Matt Parker had me thoroughly enjoying this collection of situations where maths and numbers go wrong in everyday life I think the book s title is a little weak Humble Pi doesn t really convey what it s about but that subtitle a comedy of maths errors is far informativeWith his delightful conversational style honed in his stand up maths shows it feels as if Parker is a friend down the pub relating the story of some technical disaster driven by maths and computing or regaling us with a numerical cock up These range from the spectacular wobbling and collapsing bridges for example to the small but beautifully formed such as Excel s rounding errorsSometimes it s Parker s little asides that are particularly attractive I loved his rant on why phone numbers aren t numbers at all would it be meaningful for someone to ask you what half your phone number is We discover the trials and tribulations of getting calendars right explore some of the oddities of probability enjoy a bit of impossible geometry and see how getting units right or wrong can make all the difference Of course there are the big stories from NASA disasters to the risks of trying to crash onboard systems on planes mid flight But it s often those little details like the phone numbers that tickled me I loved for example Parker s attempts to get the footballs on UK signs geometrically correct totally misunderstood by the bureaucracy or when Parker points out the problems of graphics featuring multiple cogs interlocked with each other in a way that will lock them solid not to mention his combinatorial struggles with the McDonald s McChoice menuThe only thing I did find and this is the only reason the book doesn t get five stars is that the final couple of chapters seemed a little samey Rather than save the best to last Parker resorts to revisiting rather familiar feeling computer problems which are interesting but perhaps to me with a background in computing than many readers but by now not uite as original and fresh feelingHowever this is an excellent read managing to be light and meaty at the same time and highly recommended for anyone interested in maths business or computing Knew I was going to love this book when I opened it and immediately saw the page numbers going the wrong wayIt is a lot of fun the whole way through Parker takes us through some of his favourite or some of the noteworthy cases of maths going wrong across a variety of applications We re talking engineering and computing from bridges to spacecraft to calendars to ancient sumerian tablets His enthusiam shines brightly through and it s hard to not be infected by it His writing is infused with a dry wit and a good sprinkling of genuine laugh out loud humour which hopefully would make this a fun read ever for those who aren t already invested in the maths storiesMy major criticism is that despite the clear over arching theme of maths problems the book still does not feel that cohesive It has the feeling of a series of articles and just never uite manages to tie them all together or raise a greater point This ultimately doesn t matter too much though as it is still a very engaging and enjoyable read Definitely learnt a new thing or two Humble Pi takes us on a tour of the times when math engineering and programming have gone wrong leading to disastrous or sometimes just funny results The book covers a range of mistakes including bridge failures space exploration disasters game show cheats financial algorithms gone rogue and so much I pretty much loved this book from start to finish I found it thoroughly fascinating and often hilarious Parker has a great way with explaining technical subjects distilling it down to layman terms while retaining his humor Even on events I already now about Parker s explanations provided a new and interesting takeThe book is organized so that similar themes are grouped together into chapters but each incident is only a few pages long so it never feels bogged down or boring I found it best to read with the internet handy so I could zip on and find out whenever it interested meIt s been a while since I ve been this riveted by a nonfiction book I was tearing through it chuckling to myself and stopping only to look up videos of Michael Larson on Press Your Luck and Galloping Gertie as it came down I m so glad I happened across this book It totally spoke to the inner engineer nerd in me After all the only thing fascinating than how something works is when it doesn t A Christmas present book from a relative in recognition of my past technical careerEach chapter a nugget of information about some maths error that has caused us problems in everyday life I put maths in inverted commas as many of the issues may be a poor engineering implementation of so I love maths I enjoy finding out about mathematical and statistical errors I was thinking some of my maths teacher friends might enjoy it and find it useful for illustrations in class Thats where the plot breaks down a littleI enjoyed the book but was a little disappointed that so much was taken from fields of computing and engineering where the issue wasn t strictly a mathematical failure but a failure for example to understand the limits of binary or load bearing or resonant freuency Many of the examples could easily have found themselves in books subtitled A Comedy of Engineering Errors or A Comedy of Programming ErrorsThe book is fine if you are looking for a book that shows how mathematics in its many practical applications goes wrong Having said that there are chapters that are mathsnumberstatistics oriented than others But not as many as I would have likedThe book is reasonably well written but a few too many asides to the reader for my liking I really enjoyed this book I m one of those people who got labelled bad at math at a young age because I struggled with arithmetic and still do That resulted in my getting handed a lot of books of math is fun type puzzles when I was a id which were definitely much fun than math class I learned to differentiate math from arithmetic and stubbornly took math classes up through calculus which was fascinating but which I ve sadly never had any occasion to put to use To make this long story short I recommend this book to people who think they hate math or who foundfind math difficult as well as technically inclined types who use math all the time The topics covered in this book are wide ranging and a lot of them are things you might not even think of as being mathematical putting a padlock on a door properly for instance or people with names that get ignored by computer code Matt Parker s voice is witty without ever talking down to his audience He just really loves anything even tangentially mathematical and loves sharing it with everyone else And this book made me laugh out loud many times It s possibly all nerd humor but it was great There are three math errors in this book which I did not catch but also didn t look for very hard So this book has a math game in it Also it s numbered backwards which made it tricky to track my process through it here since Goodreads won t let you update to Page 141 when you started on Page 316 There s also a trick to the index that I didn t figure out but the index is worth reading for itself as well I may reread this sometime and actually try to find the errors and solve the indexing But there was a waiting list for it at the library so I zoomed it back as soon as I finished it This is some of the most fun I ve had reading in uite a while So seriously even if your nee reaction is recoil in horror from the thought of reading a reaction is to recoil in horror from the thought of reading a book try it anyway This was one of the most highly entertaining books I ve ever read Whitty and easily digestable I would recommend this to anyone remotely interested in math or engineering Summary not very interesting and it s not about maths errorsThis book is a collection of anecdotes that you can read anywhere most of them I had read before and you can find them on the internet too They re bundled by theme here which is convenient but the writer tries too hard to make them appear connected and often than not that results in uninspired paragraphs Here s an example from a random pageBut what happens when computers try to divide by zero Unless they ve been explicitly told that they can t divide by zero they naively give it a go And the results can be terrifyingYou can almost hear that in that slick documentary voice over style where everything spells doom Will the team find a way out or will they fail And in this case really I picked a random page the writer is wrong There has been no naively dividing by zero for uite some time now What happens is well defined and in many languages reuires explicit handling There are cases where the writer follows this loose journalistic style almost as if he expects the reader would lose interest without such casual seguesAnd that leads me to the next problem most of the book is not about math errors Instead it s about not understanding or not properly modelling the subject matter physics mostly not measuring correctly and not implementing properly And uite a bit of text is dedicated to explaining probability calculus Only a small part is about actual mathematical errorsSo if you want some entertaining reading with a technical streak this can be your book provided you ve never read about the Challenger report and don t The Book Thief kn. The author explains how the misuse of math creates problems Mathematical errors often include mistaking units pounds forilograms feet for meters and misunderstanding probabilistic and statistical statements Parker also presents examples of use.
Matt Parker Õ 2 Characters.
Know if there was any risk in doing it all on the same day making for fewer trips to the gym I now how they feel I split my days between geometry and algebra cThe game designers had deliberately given Gandhi the lowest non zero aggression rating possible a score of 1 Classic Gandhi But later in the game when all the civilizations were becoming well civilized every leader had their aggression rating dropped by two For Gandhi starting from 1 this calculation played out as 1 2 255 suddenly setting him to maximum aggression Even though this error has since been fixed later versions of the game have ept Gandhi as the most nuke happy leader as a tradition If you want something unlikely to occur you simply need the patience to create enough opportunities to allow it to happen cThe managers and high up people in NASA were saying that each shuttle launch had only a one in 100000 chance of disaster But to Feynman s ears that did not sound right He realized it would mean there could be a shuttle launch every day for three hundred years with only one disaster What counts as a mistake in finance Of course there are the obvious ones where people simply get the numbers wrong On 8 December 2005 the Japanese investment firm Mizuho Securities sent an order to the Tokyo Stock Exchange to sell a single share in the company J COM Co Ltd for 610000 around 3000 at the time Well they thought they were selling one share for 610000 but the person typing in the order accidentally swapped the numbers and put in an order to sell 610000 shares for 1 eachThey frantically tried to cancel it but the Tokyo Stock Exchange was proving resistant Other firms were snapping up the discount shares and by the time trading was suspended the following day Mizuho Securities were looking at a minimum of 27 billion in losses well over 100 million at the time It was described as a fat fingers error I would have gone with something like distracted fingers or should learn to double check all important data entry but is probably now fired anyway fingers The wake of the error was wide reaching confidence dropped in the Tokyo Stock Exchange as a whole and the Nikkei Index fell 195 per cent in one day Some but not all of the firms which bought the discount stock offered to give them back A later ruling by the Tokyo District Court put some of the blame on the Tokyo Stock Exchange because their system did not allow Mizuho to cancel the erroneous order This only serves to confirm my theory that everything is better with an undo buttonThis is the numerical euivalent of a typo cSome of the ancient Sumerian records were written by a person seemingly named Kushim and signed off by their supervisor Nisa Some historians have argued that Kushim is the earliest human whose name we now It seems the first human whose name has been passed down through millennia of history was not a ruler a warrior or a priest but an accountant The eighteen existing clay tablets which are signed Kushim indicate that their job was to control the stock levels in a warehouse which held the raw materials for brewing beer I mean that is still a thing a friend of mine manages a brewery and does exactly that for a living His name is Rich by the way just in case this book is one of the few objects to survive the apocalypse and he becomes the new oldest named human cA salami slicing rounding down attack was part of the plot of the 1999 film Office Space just like Superman III The main characters altered the computer code at a company so that whenever interest was being calculated instead of being rounded to the nearest penny the value would be truncated and the remaining fractions of a penny deposited into their account Like the Vancouver Stock Exchange Index this could theoretically carry on unnoticed as those fractions of pennies gradually added upMost real world salami slicing scams seem to use amounts greater than fractions of a penny but still operate below the threshold where people will notice and complain One embezzler within a bank wrote software to take twenty or thirty cents out of accounts at random never hitting the same account than three times in a year Two programmers in a New York firm increased the tax withheld on all company pay cheues by two cents each week but sent the money to their own tax withholding accounts so they received it all as a tax refund at the end of the year There are rumours that an employee of a Canadian bank implemented the interest rounding scam to net 70000 and was discovered only when the bank looked for the most active account to give them an award but I cannot find any evidence to back that up cPrecision and accuracy often get jumbled together but they are two very different things Precision is the level of detail given and accuracy is how true something is I can accurately say I was born on Earth but it s not very precise I can precisely say I was born at latitude 37229N longitude 115811W but that is not at all accurate Which gives you a lot of wriggle room when answering uestions if people Don T Demand That You Be Accurate t demand that you be accurate precise Accurately I can say that someone drank all the beer Precisely I
Can Say That An Albanian Who Holds Several Tetris Worldsay that an Albanian who holds several Tetris world drank all the beer But I d rather not be precise and accurate at the same time as it may incriminate me cIn 2017 it was reported that if the US switched all of its coal power production to be solar power it would save 51999 lives every year an oddly specific number It clearly looks like it has not been rounded check out all those nines But to my eye it looks like two numbers of different sizes have been combined and have produced an unnecessary level of precision as a result I ve mentioned in this book that the universe is 13800 million years old But if you re reading it three years after it was published that does not mean that the universe is now 13800000003 years old Numbers with different orders of magnitude sizes of the numbers cannot always be added and subtracted from each other in a meaningful way The figure of 51999 was the difference between lives saved not using coal and deaths caused by solar Previous research in 2013 had established that the emissions from coal burning power stations caused about 52000 deaths a year The solar photovoltaic industry was still too small to have any recorded deaths So the researchers used statistics from the semiconductor industry which has very similar manufacturing processes and utilizes dangerous chemicals to estimate that solar panel manufacture would cause one death per year So
lives saved year EasyThe problem was that the starting value of 52000 was a rounded figure with only two significant figures and now suddenly it had five I went back to the 2013 research and the original figure was 52200 deaths a year And that was already a bit of a guess for all you stats fans the value of 52200 had a 90 per cent confidence interval of 23400 to 94300 The 2013 research into coal power deaths had rounded this figure to 52000 but if we un round it back to 52200 then solar power can save 52199 lives We just saved an extra two hundred peopleI can see why for political reasons the figure of 51999 was used to draw attention to the single expected death from solar panel production and so to emphasize how safe it is And that extra precision does make a number look authoritative The reduced precision in a rounded number makes them also feel less accurate even though that is often not the case Those zeros on the end may also be part of the precision One in a million people will unknowingly live exactly a whole number of ilometres door to door from work accurate to the nearest millimetre cIn February 2017 the BBC reported a recent Office for National Statistics ONS report that in the last three months of 2016 UK unemployment fell by 7000 to 16 million people But this change of seven thousand is well below what the number 16 million had been rounded to Mathematician Matthew Scroggs was uick to point out that the BBC was basically saying that unemployment had gone from 16 million to 16 million cSimply telling people not to make any mistakes is a naive way to try to avoid accidents and disasters James Reason is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Manchester whose research is on human error He put forward the Swiss Cheese model of disasters which looks at the whole system instead of focusing on individual peopleThe Swiss Cheese model looks at how defenses barriers and safeguards may be penetrated by an accident trajectory This accident trajectory imagines accidents as similar to a barrage of stones being thrown at a system only the ones which make it all the way through result in a disaster Within the system are multiple layers each with their own defences and safeguards to slow mistakes But each layer has holes They are like slices of Swiss cheeseI love this view of accident management because it acknowledges that people will inevitably make mistakes a certain percentage of the time The pragmatic approach is to acknowledge this and build a system robust enough to filter mistakes out before they become disasters When a disaster occurs it is a system wide failure and it may not be fair to find a single human to take the blame cIt is my uninformed impression that in some industries such as medicine and finance which do tend to blame the individual ignoring the whole system can lead to a culture of not admitting mistakes when they happen Which ironically makes the system less able to deal with them Putting date in decimal form leads to problems because the internal computations are actually done in binary Yet Parker has a sly wit; so although all this sounds very serious in fact the writing style is breezy and in some parts extremely funny. .51999 lives saved
Ow anything about collapsing bridges or programming errors that crash rockets Otherwise you might want to look for something else Turns out that pi s not as humble as one could imagine That many people actually did die as a result of many of the errors is tragic and definitely takes most of fun from the comedy The unfortunate book name aside it s a magnificent read into how maths go bump in everywhere Plaintiff s insistence that the commercial appears to be a serious offer reuires the Court to explain why the commercial is funny Explaining why a joke is funny is a daunting task cI went with my favourite method of comparing big numbers to time We now a million a billion and a trillion are different sizes but we often don t appreciate the staggering increases between them A million seconds from now is just shy of eleven days and fourteen hours Not so bad I could wait that long It s within two weeks A billion seconds is over thirty one yearsA trillion seconds from now is after the year 33700CEThose surprising numbers actually make perfect sense after a moment s thought Million billion and trillion are each a thousand times bigger than each other A million seconds is roughly a third of a month so a billion seconds is on the order of 330 a third of a thousand months And if a billion is around thirty one years then of course a trillion is around 31000 years cEven after a lifetime of education dealing with small numbers there is a vestigial instinct that larger numbers are logarithmic that the gap between a trillion and a billion feels about the same as the jump between a million and a billion because both are a thousand times bigger In reality the jump to a trillion is much bigger the difference between living to your early thirties and a time when humankind may no longer exist cI believe that regardless of flight phase is official FAA speak for This could go down mid flight Their official line on airworthiness was the reuirement of repetitive maintenance tasks for electrical power deactivation That is to say anyone with a Boeing 787 had to remember to turn it off and on again A political committee is rarely a good solution to a mathematical problem cTo get everything back into alignment in the first place the year 46BCE had a possible world record 445 days cThe building at 20 Fenchurch Street in London By all measures it s a successful building Except during the summer of 2013 it started setting things on fire The exterior of the building was designed by architect Rafael Vi oly to have a sweeping curve but this meant that all the reflective glass windows accidentally became a massive concave mirror a ind of giant lens in the sky able to focus sunlight on a tiny area It s not often sunny in London but when a sun filled day in summer 2013 lined up with the recently completed windows a death heat ray swept across London Okay it wasn t that bad But it was producing temperatures of around 90 C which was enough to scorch the doormat at a nearby barber s shop A parked car was a bit melted and someone claimed it burned their lemon that s not cockney rhyming slang it was an actual lemon A local reporter with a flair for the dramatic took the opportunity to fry some eggs by placing a pan in the hotspot cIn July 2011 a thirty nine storey shopping centre in South Korea had to be evacuated because resonance was vibrating the building People at the top of the building felt it start to shake as if someone had banged the bass and turned up the treble Which was exactly the problem After the official investigation had ruled out an earthuake they found the culprit was an exercise class on the twelfth floorOn 5 July 2011 they had decided to work out to Snap s The Power and everyone jumped around harder than they usually did Could the rhythm of The Power match a resonant freuency of the building During the investigation about twenty people were crammed back into that room to recreate the exercise class and sure enough they did have the power When the exercise class on the twelfth floor had The Power the thirty eighth floor started shaking around ten times than it normally did cWhen it was reopened the Millennium Bridge was described as probably the most complex passively damped structure in the world Not an epithet most of us would aspire to c British engineers prided themselves on their stiff upper bridges cObviously we should do whatever we can to avoid engineering mistakes but when engineers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible occasionally a new aspect of mathematical behaviour will unexpectedly emerge Sometimes the addition of a little bit mass is all it takes to change the mathematics of how a structure behavesThis is a common theme in human progress We make things beyond what we understand and we always have done When theory lags behind application there will always be mathematical surprises lying in wait The important thing is that we learn from these inevitable mistakes and don t repeat them cIn the mid 1990s a new employee of Sun Microsystems in California ept *Disappearing From Their Database Every * from their database Every his details were entered the system seemed to eat him whole he would disappear without a trace No one in HR could work out why poor Steve Null was database ryptonite cCarrying on in the same vein as Steve Null I d like you to meet Brian Test Avery Blank and Jeff Sample The Null problem can be fixed by encoding names in a format for only character data so that it doesn t get confused with the data value of NULL But Avery Blank has a bigger problem
Humans When Avery Blank WasWhen Avery Blank was law school she had difficulty getting an internship because her applications were not taken seriously People would see Blank in the surname field and assume it was an incomplete application She always had to get in touch and convince the selection committee that she was a real humanBrian Test and Jeff Sample fell foul of the same problem but for slightly different reasons When you set up a new database or a way to input data it s good practice to test it and make sure it s all working So you feed through some dummy data to check the pipeline I run a lot of projects with schools and they often sign up online I ve just opened my most recent such database and scrolled to the top The first entry is from a Ms Teacher who works at Test High School on Test Road in the county of Fakenham She s probably a relation of Mr Teacher from St Fakington s Grammar School who seems to sign up for everything I doTo avoid being deleted as unwanted test data when Brian Test started a new job he brought in a cake for all his new colleagues to enjoy Printed on the cake was a picture of his face with the following words written in icing I m Brian Test and I m real Like a lot of office problems the issue was solved with free cake and he was not deleted again cSo when it comes to names if you inherit a database illing last name you can either wear it as a badge of honour or take some deed poll action But if you are a parent please don t give your child a first name which will set them up for a lifetime of battling computers And given that over three hundred children in the USA since 1990 have been named Abcde it s worth spelling this out don t name your child anything like Fake Null or DECLARE cIn Los Angeles there is a block of land on the corner of West 1st Street and South Spring Street which houses the offices of the LA Times It is just down the street from City Hall and directly over the road from the LA Police Department There may be some rough areas of LA best avoided by tourists but this is certainly not one of them The area looks as safe as safe can be until you check the LAPD s online map of reported crime locations Between October 2008 and March 2009 there were 1380 crimes on that block That s around 4 per cent of all crimes marked on the mapWhen the LA Times noticed this it politely asked the LAPD what was going on If the computer is unable to work out the location it simply logs the default location for Los Angeles the front doorstep of the LAPD headuarters cWhenever a computer cannot decipher a location it still has to fill something in and so 00 became the default location The island where bad data goes to die cFor a start just because something walks like a number and uacks like a number does not mean it is a number cFor generations cartographers have been sneaking fictitious places into real maps often as a way to expose people plagiarizing their work and it was inevitable that Null Island would take on a life of its own So they literally put it on the map cSo the signs remain incorrect But at least now I have a framed letter from the UK government saying that they don t think accurate maths is important and they don t believe street signs should have to follow the laws of geometry cNever put teamwork cogs as a search term into a stock image website For a start if you re not used to the cheese tastic world of inspirational work posters what you see will come as a shock The next shock is that a lot of the diagrams supposed to be showing a team working like a well oiled machine use a mechanism which would be permanently seized in place The longer I think about it the I m convinced that this does actually make a great analogy for workplace teamwork cI don t complain that Picasso s works are biologically implausible or send Salvador Dal angry letters about the melting point of clocks cIt seems they used to do their upper and lower body workouts on alternate days but now due to a lack of time they wanted to. Rs of computer software not fully understanding the limitations of packaged programs The only topic that is somewhat technical and reuires a bit of effort to follow is Parker's explanation of how the inexactitudes introduced by inputting and out.