How Bizarre

  Paul McCartney wrote “Lovely Rita” after getting a parking ticket The Bee-Gees got the beat for “Jive Talkin’” from the sound of driving on a causeway After being refused entry to Studio 54, Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards wrote “Le Freak” Let me stop here and ask: do any of the above excessively tax […]

Let’s Get Lost 2

  In my labors to become less bad at math I encountered the word subitize. I had not known this was a word, but apparently there are five-year-olds who do. I’ve been trying to learn combinatorics (another word I’d not known existed). That binomial coefficient, man: exclamation points, n choose k … Pete choose headache! […]

Base Fiddle

  Occasionally you learn something astonishing. The other day I was in the midst of Mathematics for the Nonmathemetician* and read this: There are people who campaign for the adoption of base twelve, because it offers special advantages. I mean, this is America. There’s a lot you can say about the place, but it does […]

The Bricklayer

  So you think you’re bad at math? It’s not you, it’s… Uh, anyway. In the Light of What We Know is one of the better novels I’ve read in the past few years, all the more so because it’s a first novel.   I was so taken with this one passage that I copied […]

Clear Cut

  It is not so easy to run again when you have been ejected from office by a clear majority of voters (he lost to Mr. Hollande by more than three percentage points). It’s statements like the above that make me think I don’t understand democracy, or math. I mean, yes, I can calculate that […]

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

  Leibniz remarked about his enemy Newton: “Taking mathematics from the beginning of the world to the time when Newton lived, what he had done was much the better half.” The same could be said of Bach. Compared with the entire body of music before his time, his own was the finer half.   My […]


Let us record my characteristic prescience [solipsism? – Ed.] by noting that my latest piece, on the rigors of re-learning math, is accompanied by two articles on math education: “Maths-Phobia Is No Laughing Matter” in the Financial Times “The Wrong Way to Teach Math” in the New York Times. I don’t recall being bad at math until […]