The Arithmetic of Life and Death

The Arithmetic of Life and Death by George Shaffner is a collection of essays. Each essay highlights how simple math can be used to evaluate one of life's important questions. This isn't a puzzle or riddle book. You don't have to know advanced calculus to examine the questions. They are straightforward - like, how much more income will I earn in a lifetime if I stay in high school?

Many of these essays are great to use as "instructional notes" to people you care for who are making less than wise decisions. If you know someone who speeds a lot, one of the essays talks about how this increases your chance of getting ticketed and fined. If you're in an environment where a group is trying to develop a consensus, you learn some tricks on getting that to work (and what to avoid). There are essays in here for a wide variety of situations - family, professional, and personal.

On one hand this chapter-based layout is great. If you know someone who smokes, you leap to "A Case for Smoking", read that, and share it. However, many of the titles here are in the "cutesy" category. What is "Figures Don't Lie ..." about? It could be anything. How about "The Duke of Pork"? Or "MB(U)O"? Cutesy titles are great for magazine articles when you're turning the page anyway, but for a reference book like this it would have been far better if the titles each had clear meaning.

Still, once you make yourself a cross-key, so you know what goes with what, you're all set. This is the type of book you lend out to family and friends - and then maybe don't get back because they are then busy foisting it on their kids and parents. So be ready to buy yourself another copy. You'll want to. This is the kind of the book you like to have around.

Well recommended.

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