A Million Random Digits: review of reviews

04 Mar

Recently on his blog (here), Robin mentioned an amazing book, called "A Million Random Digits" published by RAND corporation. The book was initially published in 1955, but RAND published a nice (and expensive) second edition.

A great thing is that on Amazon, there are several extremely interesting reviews of the book. E.g.

4.0 out of 5 stars Didn’t like the ending, February 10, 2009  By Damien Katz

Even though I didn’t really see it coming, the ending was kind of anti-climatic. But overall the book held my attention and I really liked the "10034 56429 234088" part. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

5.0 out of 5 stars I found a typo, September 14, 2007  By fanfan

To whom do I write to report typographical errors? I noticed that the first "7" on the third line page 48 should be a "3". The "7" that’s printed there now isn’t random. Other than that, this is really an excellent book.

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and original plot, April 21, 2007  By Herr Tarquin Biskuitfaß

This one has a very unpredictable plot, sublime character development in a style that stubbornly defies any sort of development in its rare and iconoclastic brilliance, and is told remarkably with numbers instead of letters. Take, for example, this passage on page 202, "98783 24838 39793 80954". I’m speechless. The symmetry is reminiscent of the I Ching, and it approaches a rare spiritual niveau lacking in American literature. It not only reads well, but it looks great too. I have a tattoo of page 214 on my arm, and I’m hoping to get 202 on my belly to celebrate my next birthday. It is an injustice that Rand Corporation has not received the Nobel Prize for Literature, nor even a Pulitzer.

3.0 out of 5 stars A serious reference work?, October 16, 2006  By BJ

For a supposedly serious reference work the omission of an index is a major impediment. I hope this will be corrected in the next edition.

1.0 out of 5 stars Not Nearly A Million, September 3, 2006  By Liron

This book does not even come close to delivering on its promise of one million random digits. My expectations were high after reading the first sentence, which contained ten unique digits. However, the author seems to have exhasted his creativity in this initial burst, because the other 99.999% of the book is filler in which those same ten digits are shamelessly reused!  If you are looking for a larger offering of numerals in various bases, I highly recommend "Peter Rabbit’s ABC and 123".

3.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the audiobook version, October 19, 2006  By R. Rosini "Newtype"

While the printed version is good, I would have expected the publisher to have an audiobook version as well. A perfect companion for one’s Ipod.

5.0 out of 5 stars Wait for it…, February 10, 2009  By Cranky Yankee

It started off slow, single digit slow in the beginning but I stuck with it. I eventually learned all about the different numbers, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 0 and their different combinations.  The author introduced them all a bit too quickly for my taste. I would have been perfectly happy with just 1,2,3,4 and 5 for the first 20,000 digits, but then again, I’m not a famous random-number author, am I?  After a while, patterns emerged and the true nature of the multiverse was revealed to me, and the jokes were kinda funny. I don’t want to spoil anything but you will LOVE the twist ending!  Like 4352204 said to 64231234, "2242 6575 0013 2829!"

OK, I have to admit I tried to check a few of them (that's my freaky part). For instance the first one is a fake: the two first numbers - for instance - never show up together (consecutively),

> DIGIT=read.table("
> DIGIT=DIGIT[,2:11]
> k=1
> I=apply(DIGIT[,1:2]==c(10034,56429),1,sum)==2
> for(k in 2:9){
+ I=cbind(I,apply(DIGIT[,k+0:1]==c(10034,56429),1,sum)==2)
+ }
> I0=which(apply(I,1,sum)>0)
> DIGIT[I0,]
[1] V2 V3 V4 V5 V6 V7 V8 V9 V10 V11
<0 rows> (or 0-length row.names)

Nevertheless, I did have some fun reading those reviews. About the book, unfortunately I have to confess I stopped after 99998 appeared (the first time).

This post was kindly contributed by Freakonometrics - Tag - R-english - go there to comment and to read the full post.


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