I enjoy reading. But I’m a slow reader and don’t find (take?) time often enough. I mostly savor books that give present interesting ideas, novel insights, that let you rediscover the well-known and give your brain something to digest.

“A Short History of Nearly Everything” (by Bill Bryson) certainly falls into this category. Sometimes the anecdotal style distracts your attention from the remaining beauty of the book a bit, but it’s still a worthwhile read.

This morning, while reading in it on the train, I came across the following trivial but still cute eyeopener:
You have two parents, I suppose. And most likely you have or had four grandparents. Most certainly you had eight great-grandparents. Now if all of your ancestors (maybe being academics) had the “relevant” child at the age of 35 then around the year 0 (which actually never existed, as we went from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.) your family tree would have more than 2^50 nodes. At the era of Siddhartha Gautama you’d be at about 2^65 … which is more than the total number of people who ever lived. So what has gone wrong?

Incest! Most likely your two grandfathers were not the same person. Probably even your four great-grandmothers were all lovely and distinct creatures. But at some point, even if you’re not from the Saarland, there’ll be an unavoidable overlap. Trivial to see if you think about it. After all we’re all the offspring of Eve and Adam [Ladies first!].  🙂

That was lesson one for me today. Lesson two: You can’t drive a car without a number plate. – You knew this already? Well, I thought I did as well. But I still tacitly assumed that the car dealer could somehow give me one of those magic read number plates or that there’d be some solution, so that I could take my new car and drive to SB. Not so easy young man! These number plates are, it seems, worth a lot of money. So what I should have done: Get a temporary number plate (valid for a few days) in SB, take it to the car dealer, buy the car and drive home. Now I know.

In the end somehow by hesitating long enough and being the only custumer today, I still got a pair of read number plates from the card dealer (THANKS!) so that I could take my orange (!) car and drive back to SB. On Monday I have to send the plates back by express courier service as they need these number plates to buy cars (and then move them) themselves.

Lesson three: Differential taxation (Differenzbesteuerung). No, this is not a tax aimed at keeping mathematical formulas simple by giving financial incentives to avoid the unnecessary use of differentials. It’s simply a tax regulation that applies, among other things, to cars bought from private persons and then being sold again by a car dealer. The difference between the purchase and sale price is relevant for purchase tax (Umsatzsteuer). Anyways, it didn’t affect me. Just learned this new word today. Might come in handy for some cross-words puzzle in the future.