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November Big Ideas Book Club

Wed the 28th of November at 6.30pm. 

Our bookclub is set up to explore big ideas in nonfiction and fiction, particularly in areas where science and society meet. Thus far we’ve read and discussed The Geek Manifesto by Mark Henderson, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett and Higgs Discovery by Lisa Randall. So our discussions have ranged from the political implications of science being marginalised in the political process to  the ethics of drug research and it’s possible impact on indigenous peoples and lastly to the possible meaning of what Brian Cox calls the greatest discovery of his lifetime, the Higgs Boson. Once again our book is wildly different from the last, The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles centre’s on a big awkward mathematical genius, a statistician called Julius Miles who has all the social skills of a bayesian analysis. 

A “happy number” is a number in which the iterated sums of the squares of the digits terminate at one. How does this related to series of big random events occurring in Julius’ life? 

Having read a number of reviews of the book I think it may be better to take a look at the author. Jim Keeble wrote recently in The Guardian of the difficulties in becoming a father, of finding the powerful emotions to connect with his newly born son. The life experience of writers clearly impacts on their work and so I was drawn to this paragraph in a recent article Keeble wrote about this time in his life:

Men like to be in control, to solve problems, whether real or merely perceived. Pregnancy is one of those times in their lives when men feel least in control. We can do nothing but faff around the edges of a life-changing event. So we devour information, make strategies, research car seats, baby monitors and the latest German-designed travel cots.

Will the The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles turnout to be a story of ‘maleness’ often associated with an awkwardness in complex social situations? If so, will the science add something deeper to this discussion? I’m reminded albeit tangentially of Asimov story of Hari Seldon in Foundation who himself tried to understand the world through statistical analysis. Whatever the story has in store I’m looking forward to reading it and the discussion to be held on Wed the 28th of November at 6.30pm. The Facebook event page can be found here

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