Humble Pi - When Math Goes Wrong in Real World

Written on August 16, 2021

Recently, I came across the book, Humble Pi - When Math Goes Wrong in Real World by Matt Parker. I must say that it was both hilarious and eye opening!

humble pi


The book is filled with very interesting tid-bits from history and recent history on how our reliance on math can sometimes lead to comical or catastrophic failures. It starts off with humans failing to perceive very large numbers and very tiny fractions. It then progresses to issues to issues around probability and physics of construction, space vehicles and more.

Here some interesting ones:

Broughton suspension bridge


Broughton suspension warning


  • The hair-splitting issues about calculating number of days in a year! I did not realize that in the Gregorian calendar, not every year divisible by 4 is automatically considered as a leap year! The correct calculation is a bit more complex.. and the funny repercussion where a Russian team arrived too late to compete at the 1908 Olympics!

In the Gregorian calendar a year is a leap year if it is divisible by 4 with the exceptions that years divisible by 100 are not leap years unless they are also divisible by 400. The following Python program determines if year is a leap year. [Source]

Filled with a lot of such unique insights, this book is hilarious and a must read!

If you want to explore more, here are 2 good articles: