”Genius is a thing that happens, not a kind of person” is such a welcome, helpful thought, and this book is packed with them. It’s a perfect, often humorous and enjoyable rebuttal to every 13 year old’s “but when am I ever going to need this in real life?!” whine in third period algebra. (For what it’s worth, I was never that kid – I did all my homework without complaint like a good little nerd – but always assumed I was never going to use more than basic addition in my daily life because I was a lit major. I work in ophthalmology now and use mid level math on a daily basis. Thanks, optics! But I digress). Ellenberg demonstrates how math can expose logical fallacies, how it’s interwoven into politics and lotteries with probability and statistics, and it’s all very interesting. But damn was it a book that demands your attention! I found myself going back and rereading multiple passages to try and follow the math. It was fun, it was easy to understand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy to read. That being said, the whole book was designed to illustrate that closer examination and logical thinking rather than reliance on easy answers is needed more, so it’s kind of fitting. It’s like a book fractal; I’d like to think Ellenberg would appreciate that as a review.
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