A Million Random Digits: review of reviews

March 4, 2011

(This article was first published on Freakonometrics - Tag - R-english, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

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

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("
+ http://freakonometrics.blog.free.fr/public/data/digits.txt")
> 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).

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Freakonometrics - Tag - R-english.

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