My new book - NUMBERS has just been published and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about it. After all, it is increasingly difficult to persuade children to study maths at higher levels these days, or so they say - yet at the same time, when they get outside the classroom, there are numbers absolutely everywhere.
We have pin numbers, passport numbers, NHS numbers, licence numbers of all kinds. We have statistics every day for breakfast with our newspapers. Soon no doubt, under our government's benign neglect of civil liberties, we will be given ID numbers without which we are liable to arrest.
Retailers collect numbers in strange combinations - the number of young mothers who buy salmon on Tuesdays in the rain, for example. The government collects them too - anything from the mathematical abilities of eight-year-olds to the state of sailor's teeth in the Royal Navy.
So when you wonder a little more why children find dealing with numbers so difficult, you realise that we all do: they have become the tools that control us. They are the playthings of technocrats; the dull, dutiful tools of oppressors and empires.
Numbers are not just dry facts - they can make you laugh or cry, and they can make you angry too. And that's the idea behind this book.
It's a gift book comprising a collection of some of the most peculiar, bizarre, shocking and hilarious numbers we could find. They are meant to make you think, to challenge your assumptions, to make you laugh, to move you to action or simply to entertain. Numbers also offers a glimpse into the history of humanity's fascination with numbers and how our relationship with them ultimately reveals how we relate to each other and our world.
Numbers can reveal, but they can also conceal. Numbers can be convincing liars. They can unlock secrets, split atoms, reveal the inner workings of people and machines, or draw patterns of jaw-dropping complexity and beauty. In the East, they have mystical significance - they can tell the future and are the key to the secret harmonies of the universe.
Did you know???
* Proportion of the world's population that lives on less than $2 a day: 3 billion
* Average time people spend on hold on the phone every year: 45 hours
* Number of mobile phones in the UK that have been eaten by dogs: about 1 million
* Estimated number of languages used in the world: about 6,000 (down from 10,000)
* Number of years in the average life spent on the toilet: 3
* Americans who claim to have been abducted by aliens: 3.7 million??
"And yet this book also encourages a healthy scepticism about those who would have us quantify the universe and all its minutiae, including our own humanity," says my Numbers co-author David Boyle, the author of The Tyranny of Numbers (UK) and The Sum of Discontent (US).
We human beings are summed up, averaged out, and cross-sectioned by academics and officials in surveys and screeds of government statistics that rob us of our individual identities. Numbers can't quantify the things that really matter, such as love or kindness.
You don't have to be a math geek to appreciate this book; we all encounter numbers hundreds of times a day. You decide what to believe once you've seen the contortions these numbers can twist themselves into.
NUMBERS is available now BUY NOW FOR LESS THAN AMAZON - www.numbersbook.com . The book is also available from all good UK high-street/online bookstores and right here on the Books page