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“When women stop reading the novel will be dead” — McEwan

Slowworm, photo taken in Sweden

‘ “Page Turners“, according to the research, are avid readers – 48% of the women surveyed fell into this category, while only 26% of men showed equal enthusiasm. In contrast, 32% of men were burdened with the “Slow Worm” label accorded to those who read only one or two books a year, while only 18% of women fell into that category. The research further labels some readers (or rather, book buyers) as “Serial Shelvers” – people who buy books because they look fetching in their lounges, not because they have any intention of reading them, and “Double Bookers”, who are either great multi-taskers or in possession of short attention spans, as they always have more than one book on the go at a time (they’re identifiable by the precarious stacks on their bedside tables). Gender didn’t play a significant role in these last two categories – with equal percentages of men and women being Double Bookers, it indicates there is gender equality when it comes to greedy readers, at least.’ via Guardian.UK Books.

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The Biggest of Puzzles Brought Down to Size

Fermi's ID badge photo from Los Alamos.
Enrico Fermi

I have always loved back-of-the-envelope calculations, whether I get into the right ballpark or not. I find that this kind of ‘guesstimating’ is an important factor in feeling comfortable knowing how the world works. Difficult to get some people into reasoning this way, though…

‘Here is how it works. You take a monster of a ponder like, What is the total volume of human blood in the world? or, If you put all the miles that Americans drive every year end to end, how far into space could you travel? and you try to estimate what the answer might be. You resist your impulse to run away or imprecate. Instead, you look for a wedge into the problem, and then you calmly, systematically, break it down into edible bits. Importantly, you are not looking for an exact figure but rather a ballpark approximation, something that would be within an order of magnitude, or a factor of 10, of the correct answer. If you got the answer 900, for example, and the real answer is 200, you’re good; if you got 9,000, or 20, you go back and try to find where you went astray.

“It’s really just critical thinking, breaking down seemingly complicated problems into simpler problems,” said John A. Adam, a professor of mathematics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “Once you get over the hurdle and realize that, good grief, any question can be answered to this level of precision, to the nearest power of 10, it’s quite exciting, and you start looking for things to apply it to.” ‘ via NYTimes.