A global authority on cognitive neuropsychology provides an anecdotally-rich and revelatory tour of the extraordinary numerical abilities of all manner of species.
Galileo said that the language of the universe is written in mathematics and we cannot read it unless we become familiar with the characters in which it is written. If mathematics is so obviously useful for us, then it’s going to be useful for other creatures too. We all live in the same universe after all.
Whether you’re a bee counting landmarks to remember where the best flowers are, a fish finding the best shoal, a frog counting croaks to choose the best mate, a lion deciding whether to pounce or wait or a squirrel seeking nuts, it all depends on being able to carry out numerical computations. Through this wonderful journey Brian Butterworth questions what it means to count. Us Homo Sapiens may think maths is our exclusive domain, but this book shows that every creature shares a deep seated Darwinian ability to understand the intrinsic nature of our world.
Brian Butterworth is emeritus professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. He has worked on the foundations of numerical abilities for 30 years, in humans and in fish. He has written one well-received book of popular science, The Mathematical Brain (Macmillan, 1999; published as What Counts: How Every Brain is Hardwired for Math by The Free Press in the US). On YouTube’s ‘Numberphile’ channel, his video ‘Can fish count?’ has had 155,000 views and his video ‘Dyscalculia’
has been seen over half a million times.