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Posts Tagged ‘Perfect Figures – book review’

Last weekend I finished reading “Perfect Figures“, by Bunny Crumpacker (2007©).   This is a history story of how civilization developed numbers and thereby learned to count.  Obviously, there is a lot of supposition in here, because no one was really around writing the history of the “discovery” of “1” and “2” (and so on).  In any case, the book is a fairly good read and seems to make a lot of sense.
Essentially, our current numbers seem to have mostly evolved from other cultures and words used to express numerical concepts (values) and then over time were mispronounced until we arrived at today’s word (pronunciations) for the values.  What I found most interesting was the concept of “many”, as in, “1”, “2”, “3”, many…   Many seems to be the universal expression for more than we care to count at the present time.
Another interesting point was the documenting of a perception I’ve had for a number of years, but never really knew how to explain, that is, my inability to count past four to six items.  One number is more or less easy to count and remember.  So are two or three numbers.  But, when I get upwards of four numbers, I start to want to write them down or find some other way of assisting my memory.  According to the author, this is universal in our species and hence the cross line in to five by lines and the switch to “IV” for “4” in Roman numbers.  Four line (“IIII”) somehow starts to fool the human eye and five lines is “forget about it” (“IIIII”).  The interesting thing (for me) was that I had personalized this and thought it was only me.  I’d never heard anyone else complain about not being able to count by ones, so I assumed I was the only one with this problem.
Perfect Figures” is full of historical anecdotes and cultural references which made the book even more enjoyable for me as I enjoy glimpses into understanding other times, nations, cultures and languages.  I would like to give this book an unqualified “highly recommended” review, but for some reason I’m hesitant.  Although the book is fairly short (about 260 pages), it took a long time to read (almost a month).  I enjoyed reading most of it, but I never felt compelled to get back to it like I do most books I end up being totally “into”.  Normally, I’d have expected to pour through this book in a day or two.  But I didn’t.  The closest I can describe it to is like an old friend who you only want to visit with a half hour at a time.  You “feel” like you should spend the whole day with them, but in the end, you spend a half-hour and say, “No, I’m good.  See you in a couple of days…”
Be that as it may, I did enjoy the book and do highly recommend it to anyone interested in a lateral view of numbers and counting and an understanding how mankind “may” have learned to count.
Other Notes:
Just finishing my third day of vacation.  I’m planning to catch the new “Spiderman” movie and just relax.  I’ve spent the last four days working on my “Honey-Do” list.  I’ve finished the floor trim in the bedroom we just installed laminated bamboo in.  I’ve also helped a workman I hired for a couple of days take care of some other jobs: we removed a falling down metal shed from the backyard and hung a swinging gate on the side of the house (which used to be a solid fence.  He also did some ground levelling and removed an old wall heater from our hallway.  All in all, a VERY productive few days off!
Last but not least, my Giants have now won four straight series since the All-Star break and have the “hated” Los Angeles Dodgers coming up this weekend.  Go Orange and Black!!
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