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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.
“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