Simanaitis Says

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WELL, THIS SETTLES THAT!

TANTALIZINGLY LATE FOR holiday delivery is a book described in AAAS Science almost a year ago , January 6, 2022, and reaffirmed in “New Books for Young Scientists,” December 4, 2022.

The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything (Abridged): Adventures in Math and Science, by Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry, W. W. Norton, 2022. 

Geneticist Adam Rutherford also wrote A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. Mathematician Hannah Fry is author of Hello World, and she hosts the BBC Radio 4 “The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry.” They both live in London and evidently share senses of humor. er… humour.

Megan Engel writes in her Science book review, “With wry, irreverent British humor, the authors tackle a host of big, albeit seemingly random, questions, devoting a chapter to each. These range from the age-old and deep (Do we have free will? What would aliens look like?) to the droll (Does my dog love me? Are we all suckers?).”

“Most are not definitively answered,” Megan says, “but the quest for solutions is engaging and enjoyable, peppered with pop culture, literary and classical references—from Hollywood to Jane Eyre to Cicero—and easy-to-digest analogies.”

Gee. This sounds like my sorta reference book. 

Image from Science, December 9, 2022.

“For example,” Megan cites, “readers journey through human timekeeping, from sundials to ‘leap seconds,’ and learn how the modern financial system hinges precariously on subterranean fiber-optic cables that deliver atomic time to banks.” 

Doesn’t this tie in with something discussed only recently here at SimanaitisSays.

Megan observes, “Despite mostly glossing over technical details [again, my kinda reference book!], The Complete Guide does highlight some fascinating recent scientific findings—the fact that rats appear to feel regret, for example….” 

This reminds me of the veterinarian’s answer when asked whether dogs feel guilt: “Not for long.” 

Research Challenges. Megan says, “Rutherford and Fry also shine a light on important issues that plague modern science, such as the ‘File Drawer Problem,’ wherein ‘shiny novelties’ are prioritized for publication over essential but less flashy experiments that verify existing results, and the related ‘replication crisis.’ ”

A Math Tidbit. Megan shares a Rutherford/Fry curiosity concerning the number π, “that mysterious and elusive ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter.” 

Quite apart from being part of my cat pal’s name, πwacket, π can encode any English word; this, by assigning A through Z to 0 through 25 and searching through the infinitely non-repeating 3.14159265…. (See piday.org for the first million digits.)

Megan concludes with, “Readers are likely to finish The Complete Guide with a pocketful of intriguing anecdotes with which to entertain at cocktail parties….” 

Or (for those of us enjoying cocktail parties only in mystery story denouements), in jazzing up their websites. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022

6 comments on “WELL, THIS SETTLES THAT!

  1. Paul Everett
    December 21, 2022

    So what is the correct pronunciation of πwacket?? “Pwacket? Piwacket? Or?

    • simanaitissays
      December 21, 2022

      He says “Piwacket,” emphasis on the Pi. He is equally irrational, especially with cuisine.

  2. sabresoftware
    December 21, 2022

    In 1897 Indiana legislated the value of Pi to be 3. It passed in the House and failed in the Senate, but more by accident than superior scientific intelligence of the upper house. https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/~alopez-o/math-faq/mathtext/node18.html

    • simanaitissays
      December 22, 2022

      Agreed. Quite a tale. See also Happy π-Day!

      • sabresoftware
        December 22, 2022

        Happy π-Day! link didn’t work.

        I originally heard that story in 1974 while on a university field trip to Chicago area to view several tall building projects that a former Phd student from my engineering school was involved with while working for Skidmore Owings Merrill (SOM).

        We heard it from a Portland Cement Association “tour guide” at their headquarters facility in Skokie, IL. I always remembered it as Illinois that had legislated the wonky value of π, but when I looked it up yesterday to refresh my memory I realized that it was Indiana.

        On our tour of various projects that our Phd fellow had worked on, we were supposed to go visit the (then) Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) that was under construction, but the contractor cancelled the visit due to construction delays and not wanting any further disruptions.

        In the evening one of the days, Fazlur Khan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fazlur_Rahman_Khan) lead structural engineer at SOM had put on a dinner on the 95th floor of one of their other projects, the John Hancock Tower. After dinner we were ushered out of there fairly quickly as somebody called Frank Sinatra had the room booked for a private party right after us.

        Also along on our trip were several of our professors, including Dr. Alan Davenport (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Garnett_Davenport) one of the leading experts in wind studies for tall buildings and long bridges, founding the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel at the University of Western Ontario (my alma mater).

        Boundary layer wind tunnels are quite different from wind tunnels used for automotive and aviation purposes.

      • simanaitissays
        December 22, 2022

        I believe it’s fixed now.

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