I like MATH. I remember seeing a book years ago that started at one and moved slowly through important numbers in science. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers takes a different approach. Though not starting with , it starts with large numbers and through 270 pages moves down to zero. Each entry is interesting and provides references in history, science, and culture that adds value to specific numbers. For example, early in the book, the author discusses the average distance of 237,600 miles that separate the earth and the moon.
237,600 MILES OR 30 EARTHS
237,600 miles is the average distance between the earth and the moon, a number which suggests an intriguing inner harmony to our universe, for it is thirty diameters of the earth, sixty radii of the earth or 220 moon radii. The mystical author and numerologist John Michell would reveal these figures with the full force of a relevation (sic) during his lectures. A self-declared ‘radical traditionalist’, Michell campaigned long and hard against the destruction of England’s ancient number systems in favour of the decimal system.
Though the book is not a spiritual book, it does touch on a great many spiritual topics. Immediately after discussing the distance between the earth and the moon, the book moves on to discussing the 144,000 who will be saved as proclaimed as by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Besides referencing the JW believe, the author also quotes from the source of their belief, Revelation 7:4-5.
But spirituality is not limited the Christian tradition. A few pages later the author briefly (note - all the notes are brief) discusses the 124,000 prophets sent before the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.
The last entry is a reference to the Buddhists nirvana. Quoting Buddha,
‘Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvana do I call it – the utter extinction of aging and dying … That dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support. This, just this, is the end of stress.'
Hence, the author ends with “nothingness” as his final entry.
As the book demonstrates throughout, mathematics is not just a study of numbers, theories, and skills; mathematics is embedded, deeply embedded, in cultures around the world. Though at one level, the book is filled with trivia, at another level it provides insight into people throughout history and around the world. The book is written for the average adult reader, though it will be of more interest to the reader with an interest, even if not a background, in mathematics. It is not necessary to read every entry to enjoy its contents - though, if you are like me, you will end up picking up the book again and again to read entries missed on earlier scans.
The book was worth the time reading - and I will look forward to picking it up again in the future. It needs to be a ongoing work - numbers are missing (infinity and negative numbers are the most obvious). But that does not distract from the work as presented to today’s audience.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.