Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Grade - A

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's very clever - and seeing the events through the eyes of the autistic narrator is refreshing. (And it just as easily could have been maudlin or boring.) The only thing that I was surprised about was the cover art. The colors red and yellow play such a big part in the book I thought the orange color should have been red and the cream color yellow on the cover art.(But, admittedly, the chosen colors were more aesthetically pleasing.)

The book has quirky and interesting information throughout about Sherlock Holmes, Marilyn vos Savant of Ask Marilyn fame, math theories, etc. Here are a few of my favorites...

The Monty Hall Problem, solved by Marilyn

You are on a game show on television. On this game show the idea is to win a car as a prize. The game show host shows you three doors. He says there is a car behind one of the doors and there are goats behind the other two doors. He asks you to pick a door. You pick a door but the door is not opened. Then the game show host opens one of the doors you didn't pick to show a goat (because he knows what is behind the doors). Then he says you have one final chance to change your mind before the doors are opened and you get a car or a goat. So he asks you if you want to change your mind and pick the unopened door instead. What should you do?

Marilyn said that you should always change and pick the final door because the chances are 2 in 3 that there will be a car behind that door. Marilyn received tons of letters about her response, with 92% saying she was wrong. But the narrator proves that she is right with a diagram in the book. The Monty Hall Problem shows that numbers are not always simple after all - they are sometimes complicated and not straightforward at all. It supposedly also shows the difference between intuition (which would tell you that the odds don't change by changing doors) and logic. (I'm not normally much of a math person but I LOVE probability problems, for some reason.)

The narrator breaks down The Hound of the Baskervilles into clues and red herrings. He includes two interesting facts about Sherlock Holmes:

1. In the original Sherlock Holmes stories Sherlock Holmes is never described as wearing a deerstalker hat, which is what he is always wearing in pictures and cartoons. The deerstalker hat was invented by a man called Sidney Paget, who did the illustrations for the original books.

2. In the original Sherlock Holmes stories Sherlock Holmes never says "Elementary, my dear Watson." He only ever says this in films and on television.

Occam's razor, which is not a razor that men shave with but a Law, says "Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem," which is Latin and means "No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary." -- "Which means that a murder victim is usually killed by someone known to them and fairies are made out of paper and you can't talk to someone who is dead."

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