I will tell you all about the book, but first I want to tell you what it felt like to read it. It felt like being back at the beginning of my adventure into mathematics. It felt like the first time the history, culture, and philosophy of maths were unfolded before me.

Given that 14 billion years have elapsed since the birth of the Universe and that the cosmos contains a mind-boggling 10^{24} stars, can Earth really be the only planet in the entire Universe to contain life?

The movie is based on one of the best mathematical tales ever written. Inhabiting a two-dimensional world populated by polygons and ruled by circular tyrants, a bright young hexagon, through sheer mathematical willpower, imagines a third dimension.

I suspect maths in primary school would be greeted with far more enthusiasm if students had Ian Stewart as a teacher. Any man who can explain electromagnetism, gravity and atomic nuclear forces in terms of a piggy fridge magnet and a smashed kitchen plate is, surely, a communicator to be reckoned with.

Longitude was first published in 1996, occupying a substantial portion of many a Waterstones table around Christmas-time. The book has endorsements from Patrick O'Brien and Neil Armstrong, and a blurb that cheerfully describes the search for longitude as a "true-life thriller".

Have you got a favourite number? I have two — 3 and 8 — but I'm afraid my reasons aren't particularly interesting: I am born on the 3rd and 8 is two 3's joined together.