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Book Review: Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day by Jamie Buchan

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With the tech boom and millions of new digital phones every year, will we ever run out of numbers? Its amazing that ten single digits control the entire web of Internet Protocol addresses, social security numbers, the stock exchange, worldwide banking, and the numbers crunched in the tax system and health care administration every day.

Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day is an enlightening look at the use of numbers in language, fiction, culture, mythology, religion, and of course, math and science.

For example, the author defines the term “seventh heaven” as the height of ecstasy, based on religious ideas of heaven being divided into seven levels. Yet “cloud nine” likely arises not from happiness, but from the U.S. National Weather Service system for classifying cloud formations, where nine is home to cumulonimbus clouds reaching up to 40,000 feet.

The evolution of zero is traced back to India in 3000 BC and Babylon in 1000 BC, yet the zero was represented by a (sea)shell until at least 665 AD. Romans, in fact, didn’t even have a symbol to represent zero, and instead used the word "null."

You’ll never think of a sunflower the same way when you read of the magical array this flower presents: 55 clockwise seeds in a spiral pattern and 89 spirals of seeds growing counter-clockwise, following the “Fibonacci sequence” where each number is the sum of two previous numbers. This mathematician determined it results in the most efficiently distribution in the available space

Easy as Pi even defines the "419 scams" we’ve all seen in our email. Money is trapped in a foreign banks and only you have been chosen to receive the funds, if you will first transfer some money from your bank. The scam actually gets its name from Section 419 of the Nigerian penal code.

Explore the book at your leisure, whether your interests are in history, games, or numerology. You can count on it to please any puzzle lover, curious teen, or math fan. The influence of numbers in our lives remains a mystery, but this light-hearted look at numbers with graphs, charts, and games is highly entertaining.

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