On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math by Daniel Tammet
As an autistic savant, writer Daniel Tammet approaches numbers in a brilliantly oblique way. He sees math everywhere, from the geometrical grids of city streets to the predictable patterns of his mother’s daily chores. Thinking in Numbers is his effort to draw the rest of us into seeing that beauty.
One example of a puzzle he finds pretty: The universe is finite, yet the numbers used to describe it can go on infinitely. Archimedes tackled this paradox in the third century B.C. when he calculated how many sand grains it would take to fill all of space. Next, he envisioned multiplying 10,000 objects — the highest number the ancient Greeks thought worth counting — by 10,000 again and again. “I thought it is not inappropriate for you, too, to contemplate these things,” Archimedes told his stunned audience.