Why Do Buses Come In Threes – Book Review

Title – Why Do Buses Come In Threes?

Authors – Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham

Genre – Non-fiction

maths

“We did not invent mathematics, we discovered it. It exists in every aspect of our lives – serious or light-hearted, momentous or trivial.”

This book arrived as a recommendation from my fellow breed of non-fiction readers from my book club. Hardcore non-fiction readers are hard to come by; one usually receives a slew of suggestions for thrillers, historical fiction, and chicklit, and memoirs or autobiographies from non-fiction genres. This peculiar “layman’s” read about mathematical concepts piqued my interest – both for the subjects covered and the audience targetted. In spite of being a maths-phobe, I decided to dive into the sea of numbers and see what Eastaway and Wyndham had to offer.

“Why Do Buses Come In Threes?” delves into the hidden mathematics of everyday life. Those who find themselves fascinated by numbers and solve numerical puzzles as a hobby, will obviously love this book which sheds light on how maths is present anywhere and everywhere. And then there are people like me, who place mathematics on the same pedestal as foreign languages, because that’s how numbers float in front of us – no different from alphabets of a foreign script. The book serves to remind and help us discover how maths is relevant to everything we do, not just numerically, and we will never gain freedom from however dreaded the world of numbers seems to us. The author duo aims to provide new insights and stimulate curiosity.

The book identifies links between nature and mathematics, revealing how the subject rules and enhances our existence. The most beautiful pieces of music can be broken down mathematically, since all notes have a numerical relationship with each other – vibrating in harmony, unison or discord. The more straightforward the mathematical connection, the sweeter the sound. Dotted throughout the book are practical uses for probability theory, applications of tangents while sight seeing, Fibonacci series, Venn diagrams in the predator-prey relationship, prime numbers, matrices and lots more to have you looking at numbers like you never did in school. Even geometry and trigonometry find their way in day to day situations we encounter, but we solve problems so subconsciously we don’t even realize those dreaded math concepts are at work. How do coincidences occur and why are they significant? What goes on behind keeping a secret? How do you cut a cake into equal pieces so your kids don’t squabble about who got the bigger slice? How does the sporting world decipher who the best athlete is when sports are so different? Why do you find yourself waiting at the bus stop for ages, only to see three buses arrive at the same time? Why do you always get stuck in traffic jams when you leave home just ten minutes later, and reach work thirty minutes late? Is the world conspiring against you? From everyday logic, murder mysteries and parliamentary debates, puzzles, card games and magic tricks, even dating and gambling, the book covers a multitude of territories proving you can never really achieve freedom  from the subject you might have assumed you were avoiding since school. There is historical information, general trivia and a horde of interesting facts to help you learn and ponder as you read.

In agreement with the authors, whether you have a degree in astrophysics or haven’t attempted a maths problem since school, this book will change the way you view the world around you and the world of numbers. And no, the writing doesn’t get even a tad boring. The authors humorously provide situations and examples, making concepts easier to follow and have fun with at the same time. To be honest, few concepts took me a while to understand and I’m still working on some more. But that’s because maths has never been one of my favorite subjects. My rating is based on my own experience with this book – I was completely lost at places where I knew nothing about the subject (I doubt I even paid much attention in school), but other parts were amusing and I had fun solving puzzles and imagining scenarios. To sum up in three words, charming, entertaining and insightful.

My rating – 3/5

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