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Posted By Peter Bentley
Last week Alex Dickson began his "Smooth Bookcase" radio show on Glasgow's Smooth Radio with a summary of my most recent book. This is what he said in his friendly Scottish accent:

...A quick look at a great fun paperback for anyone who has ever split a drink, burned the toast, had a computer crash, slept through the alarm, or made the bath overflow. In other words, all of us.

Peter J Bentley, writing as the undercover scientist, explains why these things happen, medically or technically for instance, in a way that a schoolboy could understand. I mean, there's a lot of talk about running cars or lorries on chipfat, but could you explain in one syllable words how, exactly? Well, he does. And did you know that lightning can and does strike the same place, twice?

I promise you, this is a fun one that is fascinating. Ever got the juice from chilli peppers in your eye? Not pleasant, because the chilli peppers contain a chemical which fools your nerve ends into believing they've been burned. Well he sets out his book in the form of a day when everything goes wrong for you, and he explains all of those everyday accidents and how they happen.

Science, he tells us, governs everything - or to be more specific, there's a set of scientific principles that rules everything around us. He makes it so understandable, and as I said, fun. He points out, as a kind of warning, that if we'd not invented superglue we'd never have been able to stick our fingers together. And if the mp3 playes hadn't come along, we wouldn't be able to drop the entire lifetime music collection down the toilet by accident.

The benefits and the perils of science by Peter Bentley, and his Undercover Scientist, from Random House.

Posted By Peter Bentley
I received a long letter (on paper) from a reader in USA today. I looked him up online; an 80 year old who has served in the Air Force all over the world and now tutors in a university in Washington. Here is some of what he wrote (personal details and name removed). I wrote back thanking him for his nice words.

Dear Dr Bentley:

Your book The Book of Numbers (c) 2008 is one of the most fascinating books I have read recently,

Ever since my troubles with arithmetic throughout grade school I have been intrigued by numbers and how to use them... Continued work in college studies over many years led to becoming a tutor for those who were having trouble in mathematics from second grade through college algebra. presently I tutor Math (and other subject) to challenged students... and recognized by several teachers as "one of the best math tutors"; an acclamation I am quite proud of.

There have been many number "tricks" I have discovered to overcome a lack of memory for memorizing times tables and other rote memory requirements placed on students in the early days without calculators. these come quite in handy when tutoring students with math challenges today.

It was because of these early school challenges with arithmetic that helped turn me on to the need to investigate alternative methods of working with numbers. And taught me how mysterious and beautiful they are.

Your book has been quite intruiging. I am now looking forward to learning even more about numbers beyond ordinary arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Ev3en though one may not be able to comprehend numbers like Phi, Chi, Pi, i, e or c, there is still a possibility of learning how to use them.

Like Aristotle, who seems to have disbelieved the possibility of infinity, I am inclined to do the same yet I must recognize that somehow it, along with imaginary numbers do exist and can be used in equations in a finite world.

Thank you for your book. It is thoroughly enjoyed and I will have to peruse it often. It is my belief that someday some new "Einstein" will arise and complete (?) the work Einstein did. I believe the Unified Theory is still in the process of being proved.

A THOUGHT: What would happen if someone came up with a workable formula (even if not as simple as E=mc2) that may include most if not all of those special numbers such as Phi, Chi, Pi, i, e and c? Might it solve the enigma of the universe? Or, possibly if someone could create a Klein Bottle as we can a Mobius Circle would we be able to see a replica of space we could understand?

Sincerely [name removed] An inquisitive soul.

Posted By Peter Bentley
Another nice email from a reader of The Book of Numbers:

I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your book, The Book of Numbers. I am a mathematics major and just found the entire history of numbers to be fascinating. I was very pleased to read a book that focused just on numbers and didn't dive too deep into the number theory or any other type of mathematics. I also enjoyed how you, towards the end, started to meld physics into the book, because the two subjects, I think, correlate very well.

...I just want to emphasize how much I enjoyed the read. I finished the book in about 3 hours because I just could not put it down.

Posted By Peter Bentley
I recently came across the video of the talk I gave for Ars Eectronica in 2003. Not much to see - just me on stage with a microphone and a few slides, but the (slightly fuzzy) audio is now online. My audience was a bunch of computational artists who as usual I managed to insult (always a good trick to make 'em listen). One tried to be a bit rude at the end with her question, but you'll note the admirable patience I showed :) I talk about code, and how programming computers and biological systems relate to each other. Those who know where my research went in the following 5 years will find many of the concepts I describe familiar. You can listen to the 40 minute talk, including questions, here: y/arstalk.mp3

Posted By Peter Bentley
I didn't hear the George Lamb show on BBC 6 Music, so I don't know what they said about the book, but here's the review on their website:

The Undercover Scientist - Peter J Bentley
Random House Books, £12.99

Bentley is a man with a degree in artificial intelligence, so He Knows Science. And he's decided to share it with us. Taking the example of someone having a shocker of a day, he reveals the secret science behind everything we do.. Ever over-slept? Slipping on shower gel in the bathroom? Or dropped a wine glass and wondered why is smashed that way? Bentley has the answers. Now you'll know why you're eyes feel hot if you chop a chilli then rub them (even though they aren't hot!). It might be a bit much to read all in one go, as there's a lot of info in there, but this is a book that opens up the world to you. Factalicious.