Not Exactly - In Praise Of Vagueness by Kees van Deemter

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Not Exactly - In Praise Of Vagueness by Kees van Deemter
Buy Not Exactly - In Praise Of Vagueness from

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Genre: Popular Science
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A look at why vagueness can be more useful than being specific, taking in a range of fields, including maths, philosophy and linguistics. In the language of vagueness, it's pretty good, but not a must-read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2010
Publisher: OUP Oxford
ISBN: 978-0199545902

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How warm is a warm day? Or rather, given the weather at the moment, how chilly is a chilly day? Is it better to know I want a small helping of peas, or to know that I want 82 peas? There are times when vagueness is more useful than being specific. Kees van Deemter makes this point, sharing many examples from a number of fields, including maths, philosophy, linguistics and AI.

So what did I think of it? Specifically, 3.5 out of 5. Vaguely, it's pretty good. Worth a look if it piques your interest. The core point about the benefits of vagueness is well made in the early chapters. It's well written, with an engaging and informative style. The summaries at the end of each section are a useful recap, but do give it a feel of a textbook, rather than a popular science book. As the examples get more technical, it draws further and further from light reading, but it's never too complicated that the average reader will feel left out.

Not Exactly's conclusions are appropriately narrow, but given its broad scope it doesn't feel too samey. If being ultra-picky, I'd have plumped for a bit more editing, just to make everything a smidge more punchy, but would be hard pushed to put my finger on exactly what was too long. For those who wish to delve deeper into the issues raised, there are plenty of notes, as well as detailed references for further reading.

I keep coming back to the vague it's pretty good and worth a look if it sounds interesting. It's not dry, but it's not a must-read. It's not fascinating, but not boring. Could be better, could be worse. There are better books out there, but if you're looking for something a little different to the average popular science book, you won't be disappointed. Worth a look.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

Other popular science books that you'll enjoy include Don't Swallow Your Gum by Dr Aaron Carroll and Dr Rachel Vreeman, Breakfast with Socrates by Robert Rowland Smith and The Average Life of the Average Person by Tadg Farrington.

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