We sat down with writer, comedian and unabashed nerd Adam Spencer to discuss his new book, World of Numbers, and his chivalric defence of prime numbers.
TBS: What do you think is the key factor in you ending up where you are today career-wise?
AS: Remarkable serendipity. I was doing a pure maths PHD when Triple J ran their first ever raw comedy search. The standard was terrible. So I won! Met them and left academia for a career in whatever it is that I do.
TBS: Who do you consider the most intriguing public figure to watch at the moment?
AS: Rugby Union star David Pocock’s ability to stay on his feet at the breakdown and win that crucial ball, whilst signing a letter demanding a moratorium on new coal mines in Australia is pretty hard to top.
TBS: What is the worst way for a person to try and get your attention on social media?
AS: By saying demeaning things about prime numbers, chess or the Sydney Swans!
TBS: If you could determine the exact influence you have on a young person, what do you hope she or he would gain from observing you?
AS: For a start, I’d be very uncomfortable with the quantum implications of my being able to determine the exact influence I have on anyone. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle alone would suggest I could only be confident of my influence within a range.
But that aside, if a few years from now I meet some young professional biostatisticians or computer coders who say they really got excited by my World of Numbers and sought out a science career, I’ll consider my job done.
TBS: What advice would you give a 15-year-old Adam Spencer?
AS: Strap yourself in nerd boy, it’s going to get pretty exciting in a couple of years.
TBS: What is your most annoying trait?
AS: I last relaxed in 2007 – for about 15 minutes – got stressed out that I hadn’t done anything for a quarter of an hour.
TBS: What is the one gift you will pretty much always re-gift?
AS: Sarcasm – I return it with interest.
TBS: What is your favourite inspirational quote or person, as cliché as it may be?
AS: “E = mc squared.” That one simple sentence can say so much about the universe in which we live still staggers me.
TBS: What do you want people to get out of reading your new book, World of Numbers?
AS: For trivia lovers, it’s just a tsunami of bizarre hilarious information – a box jellyfish has 24 eyes on the inside of its head so it has 360 degree vision from looking back through it’s hollow skull! – and for the mathematically minded, it’s a really fun workout for your grey matter. Something for every(nerd).
You can buy Adam Spencer’s book, World of Numbers, and get a signed copy here.