Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alexander & Nicholas Humez's "On the Dot"

Alexander Humez and Nicholas Humez are the authors of On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World.

Nicholas Humez applied the “Page 99 Test” to On the Dot and reported the following:
I find that page 99, the third page in the chapter dealing with the dot in its incarnation as decimal point, begins with the tail end of a discussion of the divisibility of the old British pound before decimalization (as we point out, by "2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 24, 30, 32, and 40") — versus the far less user-friendly factors of ten — and goes on to talk about the Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature scales ("A thermometer reading of 98.6 tells us that the human being in front of us is not running a fever; a thermometer that said 986 would be telling us something very different (that our low-temperature silver solder is just about warm enough to flow into the joints of whatever we’re repairing) and a temperature of 9.86 (if our outdoor thermometer were that discriminating), something else again: that it’s probably safe to go skating on our local pond.") This page is, I would say, quite typical of the sort of discourse for which the Humez brothers are justly notorious (one reviewer of a previous book — The Life and Times of the Roman Alphabet, I think — referred to us as "manic-digressives").
Read an excerpt from On the Dot, and learn more about the book at the Oxford University Press website.

Alexander Humez has authored or co-authored ten trade and reference books, including collaborations with his brother such as Latin for People, Alpha to Omega, A B C Et Cetera, and Zero to Lazy Eight (also with J. Maguire). Nicholas Humez is a freelance writer and silversmith. In addition to the above collaborations, he is the author of Silversmithing: A Basic Manual, plus four poetry chapbooks.

--Marshal Zeringue