The Pleasures of Counting by T.W. Körner


"When we are ignorant of fundamental mechanisms we must fall back on statistics." (20)

You can fit observations to normal curve to predict what you don’t know or can't observe, such as number of submarines not spotted, or highest sea levels in 100 years with less than 100 years of data (65)

Management: “One of the best ways of analyzing and organizational problem is to ask not ‘What can we improve?’ but ‘What can we change?’. When we find something we can change we can then ask what effect changing it will have." (66)

Focus on your strengths! In setting depth charge depth, set them to the surface so that you can get the submarines you can actually target accurately. You let the ones that dive go, and focus on the ones you can get (your strengths). (67-68)

Why do we need to know hard things? Not for the hard things themselves, but for how it makes the previously hard things easy in comparison. “What [employers] want is the competence and confidence at lower levels indicated by knowledge of the higher levels.” (93)

“Mathematics does not enable us to make moral choices and overenthusiastic use of mathematics can obscure the moral choices we must make.” (94)

Discussion of why cicadas emerge on intervals of large prime numbers: to avoid predators life cycles. (107)

5.2 is an interesting discussion of scaling effects on building, falling objects, and animals. See the book Scaling by Schmidt-Nielsen. (109)

Discussion of Monterey bay aquarium (430)

Discussion of disease: smallpox etc. (444+)

His discussion of LaTeX renewed my interest in it. I used LaTeX a lot in college but haven't touched it since. I got it re-working on my computer and updated my resume with a nice LaTeX template. (304-305, 494, 501)

This book was about equal parts mathematics and history. It turns out I enjoyed the historical discussions the most.