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The tool appearing on the cover of Statistics Hacks is a Chinese abacus, or suanpan. Centuries before the emergence of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system, the abacus, often constructed of a wooden frame with beads sliding on wires, was used as a calculation tool. Historians place its invention between 2,400 and 300 BC. At that time, when most people could not read or write, it might have seemed ridiculous to scribble symbols on expensive papyrus when such an excellent calculating device was available. The suanpan differs from the European abacus in that its board is split into two parts. The lower part holds five counters on each wire; the upper section holds two. Complex suanpan techniques accomplish not only simple addition, but also multiplication, division, subtraction, and square and cube root operations efficiently.
The cover image is a stock photograph from CMCD Everyday Objects. The cover font is Adobe ITC Garamond. The text font is Linotype Birka; the heading font is Adobe Helvetica Neue Condensed; and the code font is LucasFont's TheSans Mono Condensed.