Dinosaurs – Dean Lomax

I’m pretty sure my fascination with dinosaurs began with The Land Before Time. For a time when I was a kid, I wanted to be a palaeontologist. I don’t think the love of dinosaurs ever dies out.

With ten short chapters, this is easily a read in one sitting book. While I already knew a lot of its fun facts, this was still an interesting read. I’ve chosen one fun fact per chapter to share.

Stegosaurus was already extinct 80 million years before Tyrannosaurus even walked on the Earth!

The remains of dinosaurs have been found on every continent, including Antarctica, which was at one point in time a rainforest.

Sir Richard Owen, founder of London’s Natural History Museum, “coined the word ‘Dinosauria’ in 1842, taken from the Greek words deinos, meaning ‘terrible’ or ‘fearfully great’, and saurus, meaning ‘lizard’.”

Next time you watch Jurassic Park, know that the Velociraptor is based on a Deinonychus. The Velociraptor was actually about the size of a turkey and had a long tail and feathers.

Studies based on the skull of Tyrannosaurus found that it had a bone-shattering bite of more than 60,000 newtons, around 6.5 tonnes of force, making it the most powerful bite known for any terrestrial animal, living or extinct. It is about four times more powerful than the bite of a saltwater crocodile, which has the strongest bite force of any living animal.

It appears that considerable time has been spent by palaeontologists trying to figure out how dinosaurs had sex. The quest for answers, “two dinosaurs preserved in the act of mating”, continues.

Palaeontologists attempt to figure out the family life of dinosaurs by looking at such things as preserved dinosaur tracks, bonebeds and nests.

Through studying the fossil record, it becomes clear that extinction is a natural process, and scientists estimate that 99.9 per cent of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.

Today, palaeontologists classify birds as theropod dinosaurs within the group known as Maniraptora (maniraptorans). More specifically, the birds belong to a subgroup called Paraves, the same wider group that includes dinosaurs like Deinonychus and Velociraptor, which are among the birds’ very closest relatives.

On average a new species of dinosaur is discovered every other week. Every other week! Up to this point, in almost 200 years of study, palaeontologists have identified around 1,500 different species of dinosaur.

What struck me most about this book was how much we still don’t know about dinosaurs and the potential for future discoveries that will change what we think we know about them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Travel back to the prehistoric world and discover the most fascinating parts of the lives of Earth’s most awe-inspiring creatures – the dinosaurs.

Dr Dean Lomax brings these prehistoric creatures to life in ten bite-sized essays, written for people short on time but not curiosity. Making big ideas simple, Dean takes readers on a journey to uncover what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, what dinosaurs ate, how they evolved, what caused them to go extinct, and more!

Perfect for anyone fascinated by the dinosaur exhibits at museums, palaeontology and fans of Jurassic Park.

Numbers – Colin Stuart

You know me: I love finding and sharing fun facts. Because this is a book about numbers, I decided to share one fact for each of the ten chapters. Here they are…

Our calendar used to have ten “moonths”. September, October, November and December were named because they were months seven through ten. When two months (January and February) were added because there are usually twelve full moons in a year, no one bothered to change their names. Also, July and August used to be known as Quintilis and Sextilis.

The year numbering system widely used today was invented by a monk called Dionysius Exiguus in the sixth century (his name may sound grand, but it translates as ‘Dennis the Short’).

The Mayans used a picture of an upside down turtle shell to represent zero.

Cicadas are distant cousins of shrimp and lobsters. Apparently, they taste like asparagus. (Not all of the fun facts in this book are specifically about numbers, even though the reason we learn about cicadas is number related.)

Every non-prime number can be deconstructed into prime numbers multiplied together (called ‘prime factors’).

Pi fun facts:
🥧 We know pi to 62.8 trillion digits
🥧 “8 is the most common digit in the first trillion digits”
🥧 There are six nines in a row at position 768
🥧 “It takes until the 17,387,594,880th digit to find the sequence 0123456789.”
🥧 You can search for combinations, like your date of birth, at angio.net/pi.

In the early nineteenth century, Reverend Jeremiah Trist built circular homes for each of his five daughters in the Cornish village of Veryan. He reasoned that there’d be no corners for the devil to hide in. If only he’d read this book first, he’d know that circles actually have an infinite number of corners. Oops!

Your maths teacher lied to you: the sum of the angles of a triangle don’t always equal 180 degrees. That only works for flat surfaces. Triangles drawn on spheres can add up to 540 degrees! If you draw a circle on a hyperbolic paraboloid (think Pringles), they’ll add up to less than 180 degrees.

Companies use graph theory to decide the route their delivery drivers take. “Such a dilemma is called a Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP) or vehicle routing problem.”

To say Francis Galton had some problematic ideas is well and truly understating it. He also came up with a way of cutting cakes to make them stay fresh longer. Although, to be fair, who expects there to be leftover cake on day three anyway?

In a group of 30 people, there is a 71% chance that two of them will share a birthday. In a group of 70 people, there is a 99.9% chance that two of them will share a birthday.

Exponential growth means that if you invested $1 in the US stock market in 1900, it would now be worth almost $70,000.

The Infinity Hotel, also called Hilbert’s Hotel, will mess with your mind. It gets to the point where an infinite number of coaches carrying an infinite number of people results in there being an infinite number of occupied rooms as well as an infinite number of unoccupied rooms.

Doesn’t add up to ten, does it? Okay, so maybe I failed at the one fact per chapter thing but only because there were too many fun facts I wanted to be able to refer to later.

This was a quick read. I mostly found it easy to follow, although infinity twisted my brain in knots and I’m not sure I could explain graph theory to you (I expect to forget everything I learned about it by this time tomorrow).

Before I found this book at my library, I’d never heard of the 10 Things You Should Know series. Now I want to know about all of the things.

Because I love pi so much now, I’m tempted to give this book pi out of five stars but that would be underselling the fun I had reading it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Uncover the language of our universe – numbers – in this wide-ranging whistle-stop tour of the history and majesty of mathematics.

Our world simply wouldn’t function if we didn’t have numbers. But where do they come from? Why do we cut cake the wrong way? How can there be different sizes of infinity?

All these questions and more are answered in this engaging romp through the history of numbers by acclaimed science writer, Colin Stuart. From the mathematicians who have (and haven’t) shouted ‘Eureka!’ to the theories that affect and inform our everyday lives, Numbers shows us that maths was never boring – we were just being taught it in the wrong way.

Consisting of ten bite-sized essays, there’s no better guide to this fundamental science.