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Apparently Amazon thinks we all need to relax. To help with that they have developed a series of Audible Originals designed to put us to sleep, including W. Rouse Ball’s A Short Account on the History of Mathematics narrated by Tony Shalhoub. If that name sounds familiar, Mr. Shalhoub might be best remembered for playing the gentle Mr. Monk, the OCD-plagued detective on the long-running TV series, Monk.  

While Shalhoub’s voice is inarguably soothing, the subject is engaging enough to keep anyone awake through the half-hour runtime. While math has always confused this poor wordsmith, history is something I can understand. Ball moves forward and backward in time to explain the influence of Phoenecian and Egyptian systems in the development of how other cultures worked with numbers.

Unsurprisingly, much of what we know about mathematics comes from religious texts. The Egyptians, for example, were very particular about the placement of their temples. Getting them built in perfect alignment with the compass points required precise measurements. Ball goes into great detail about ropes, posts, and geometry, which some might find interesting and I found more effective than counting sheep. 

In the book of Job, when God finally speaks out of the storm, he reminds Job just who laid the earth’s foundation, marked its dimensions and measurements. Though speaking poetically, the passage reminds us that our creator is a God of structure and order. The New Testament writers say again and again that God created all things, that without him nothing was made. In a world that seems off-kilter, now more than ever, there’s something reassuring in remembering God knows the number of hairs on our heads and grains of sand by the sea. (Audible Original)

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