Saturday, July 28, 2012

BC2012: Geekspeak by Dr. Graham Tattersall

I bought this at Borders in Naperville when it closed. That night was also memorable because the Wendy's on Route 59 screwed up my order twice. It wasn't complicated -- I asked for a Baconator plain. When I received a Baconator with mayo, I returned to the counter (this is why I don't do drive-thru windows) and explained that plain meant no mayo. The manager apologized, talked to the guy at the grill, and a few minutes later I got another Baconator with mayo. The third time, the manager made the damn burger himself and got it right.

I will remember that awful Wendy's experience longer than I will remember this book. For starters, Geekspeak is a silly, inaccurate title. A better title might be Everyday Applications of Mathematics, but who the hell would buy a book with a title like that? Why did I buy a book about everyday applications of mathematics with a stupid title like Geekspeak?

I hesitate to say this is a bad book, but it lacks direction. Perhaps if Tattersall were a columnist, this book would be a collection of his columns. But as far as I can tell he is not, which means the chapters in this book ought to have a more coherent underlying theme. I agree with the book's premise in concept -- that people should know how to make basic mathematical calculations to understand the world and to determine whether someone's assertion is reasonable (as opposed to blindly trusting reporters, politicians, et al). But the execution seems rather scattershot (pun intended). Tattersall provides examples whereas guidelines would be much more useful.

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