This is a roundup post, mostly for myself so I can have a short record of where people wrote or talked about the book.
I was on NPR’s All Things Considered on Monday, talking with Robert Siegel about various pieces of How Not To Be Wrong. I liked that Siegel’s questions mostly started by reading a couple of sentences from the book. The point, after all, is to give some impression of what the book’s like, not what I’m like.
More radio: I did a half hour live on WPR’s Central Time, even getting to answer some call-in questions.
I did a live chat at io9 (the science/SF wing of Gawker) where I answered questions people posted in comments. Good questions! I think I covered them all.
Sarah Gray interviewed me in Salon. The format is unusual; it looks like they printed direct transcriptions of the recorded interview, with all my pauses and runon sentences and “like”s intact. E.G. I say
Yeah. In essence math is in the humanities, in the sense that it is a fundamental part of the human condition, it’s a fundamental part of what makes us human, always has been. Imagining people not thinking mathematically is like thinking about people not making music. We’ve been doing it since there was civilization and we always will be doing it. It’s like one of the central activities that we undertake. And obviously there are people who do it more and people who do it less. And there are people who call themselves unmusical but they’re probably not completely unmusical right? So I would obviously, I would hope that those things would not be in opposition and I don’t think they have to be.
Which is indeed what I said! But recorded more faithfully than is usual.
On Slate, I’ve got a series of blog entries going up, most of which are partly excerpted from the book. Here’s the first one, in which I defend the much-maligned term “number sentence.” Probably best that Slate didn’t like my proposed headline, “You’re Goddamn Right It’s a Number Sentence!”
Jonathan Wai, a big-time researcher on gifted kids, pushes back on my WSJ article in Psychology Today. I don’t think we actually disagree so much; in particular, he’s right that we don’t do much to nurture the many talented kids who, unlike me, grow up far away from money and universities. I thought online education might be the answer to this but now I’m not sure.
The Sunday Times (the England one, not the New York one) interviewed me and ran a short piece about the book (paywalled.) The Times wrote a bit about my treatment of George Stigler’s slogan, “If you never miss a plane, you’re spending too much time in airports.” Picking up on that, all the other British newspapers wrote stories about how an American mathematician had worked out a new formula for the optimal time to get to the airport! The Daily Mail piece is typical. Then I was denounced in the Independent for being a hyperrational efficiency expert. Eventually Andy Kiersz in Business Insider wrote something about the modest claims the book actually makes…
As I write, How Not To Be Wrong is the 49th best-selling book on Amazon!
Online education is not an answer. I went to high school in a school system with no special programs for gifted and talented kids and where the principle’s main pride was the athletic trophy case. My geometry teacher thought I should apply for some NSF summer programs in mathematics, I was accepted based on problem sets, and I went off to Notre Dame one summer and Berkeley the next. They were free, except perhaps for the transportation to and fro. My parents never would have been able to afford to send me to those programs if they weren’t free. It was learning that there were other people like myself and that there was a culture that was so important about these programs, something that I could not have gotten from an online course or from my own school system. Those free NSF programs no longer exist.
I know a mathematician living in DC who is going to attend your event there, so you’ll have an audience of at least one! It would be nice to attend your event tomorrow night, but I have a severe conflict with something I have to get done for Thursday.
I’m not yet done reading your book, but the writing style is consistently excellent for this sort of thing, and I’m enjoying it much. The hand drawn diagrams are perfect; Barry was right. I had never heard the stories about the airplanes and the MRI study of the dead fish’s brain function. The book should be required reading for any college student. Although the remedial math students might have problems with some of it, I wonder if a course covering topics like this may be more beneficial than those algebra/trigonometry classes.
Ha ha, Jordan, but did you notice the title of the Daily Mail article? “Spend hours in duty free or not risk missing a flight” ! “or” instead of “AND”. You have to wonder.
By the way, I have to admit that I have a certain sympathy for something the Independent article said. I have an inner mechanism that gives me a guilty conscience whenever I waste time. (You probably have the same.) But I never get to waste time a home, and whenever I have an hour to kill at the airport and I realize that I have ab.so.lute.ly.no.thing.to.do.except.wait.and.just.look.around
it’s sort of a miracle. I love it. (Pity I usually end up eating. Another weakness.)
Hey, when I looked up your book on Amazon, it was at #48! Nice job.
I just brought On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine, in from the mailbox, and you’re on the front cover! Tens of thousands of alumni are probably doing the same all over the country. Fabulous publicity!
After reading your Slate piece, I was struck by the Colbert phrase “word equations” and shortly afterward figured out why: this is precisely what I would call a cryptic crossword clue, since these clues are literal instructions hidden behind fake out surface meanings.
And just like that I connected your Slate piece to British newspapers.
Also, as I understand it, Ezra Pound actually thought of some of his poems as “equations” and took this metaphor very seriously, but I decided not to bring this up in the piece, since a) I wasn’t able to understand what Pound was actually talking about, and b) it would have been unnecessarily pretentious. Necessary pretention, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally into.
I read this as “Sasha Grey interviewed me in Salon. The format is unusual…”
Yesterday I saw Edge of Tomorrow — or was it the other war around? — in which the alien invaders were called Mimics. Which I didn’t understand because they were nowhere near as terrifying as mimes even.
Spoiler Alert ❢
Anyway, Tom Cruise gets splashed with Mimic juice or something and acquires the Mimicses power to reboot time, until he lands in a hospital and they give him a transfusion, which takes the mimic out of him.
So it could be worse …
Your interview with Robert Siegel was about as good as it gets for five minutes – I was impressed with everyone.