Customer Reviews for

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Average Rating 4
( 69 )
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(25)

4 Star

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(14)

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(4)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Randomness Unriddled for Everyone

Leonard Mlodinow wrote an easy to read guide to influences of chance in our everyday life and shows how to benefit and how to evade unnecessary misfortunes.
The author explains all the necessary theoretical groundwork of stochastics and statistics 101 in a simple ma...
Leonard Mlodinow wrote an easy to read guide to influences of chance in our everyday life and shows how to benefit and how to evade unnecessary misfortunes.
The author explains all the necessary theoretical groundwork of stochastics and statistics 101 in a simple manner without employing any formulas. The latter makes the book accessible to anyone who is not too inclined towards mathematics, but slows reading for those knowledgeable in the field. Furthermore, he introduces the propositions in their historical context, thereby giving a catchy overview of the people and places involved.
The examples he has picked are from a wide range of everyday situations, e.g., baseball, box-office performance, cancer in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, casino gambling, crime scenes, executive performance, gender guessing of twins, lotteries, medical diagnoses, Pearl Harbor, wine tastings, etc. These vivid illustrations raise the awareness of the random impacts in the reader¿s surroundings - influences that Mlodinow shows are generally under- or overestimated beacuse the human intuition is incapable of truly conceiving randomness.
After reading this book you will have learnt three things:
1. Theory to do all sorts of calculations of randomness
2. Historical and biographical knowledge of great mathematicians
3. How randomness rules your life and what you can do to succeed anyway
The only downside of the book trying to convey all those three messages is that you should not expect 220 pages filled with ¿How Randomness Rules Our Lives¿. (Therefore, it is a four-star book for me. However, once you know this - before the purchase - it is a five star book. That¿s how expectations influence or perceptions; see around p. 133 in the book.)
The last 16 pages are dedicated references to other works that allow the interested reader to dig deep into the scientific realm of the topic.

Enjoy the book!
Jan Dominik Gunkel

posted by Jan-Dominik-Gunkel on January 18, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

too complicated

this book on statistics is just too complicated for the aver. reader.
any book on stats should be generous with many charts or graphics.
very hard to read, even though i'm a seasoned statistician i find it hard to follow. i expected a lot more.
only good for ma...
this book on statistics is just too complicated for the aver. reader.
any book on stats should be generous with many charts or graphics.
very hard to read, even though i'm a seasoned statistician i find it hard to follow. i expected a lot more.
only good for maybe some professionals but not just general public.

posted by strano on September 13, 2009

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  • Posted January 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Randomness Unriddled for Everyone

    Leonard Mlodinow wrote an easy to read guide to influences of chance in our everyday life and shows how to benefit and how to evade unnecessary misfortunes.<BR/>The author explains all the necessary theoretical groundwork of stochastics and statistics 101 in a simple manner without employing any formulas. The latter makes the book accessible to anyone who is not too inclined towards mathematics, but slows reading for those knowledgeable in the field. Furthermore, he introduces the propositions in their historical context, thereby giving a catchy overview of the people and places involved.<BR/>The examples he has picked are from a wide range of everyday situations, e.g., baseball, box-office performance, cancer in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, casino gambling, crime scenes, executive performance, gender guessing of twins, lotteries, medical diagnoses, Pearl Harbor, wine tastings, etc. These vivid illustrations raise the awareness of the random impacts in the reader¿s surroundings - influences that Mlodinow shows are generally under- or overestimated beacuse the human intuition is incapable of truly conceiving randomness.<BR/>After reading this book you will have learnt three things: <BR/>1. Theory to do all sorts of calculations of randomness<BR/>2. Historical and biographical knowledge of great mathematicians<BR/>3. How randomness rules your life and what you can do to succeed anyway<BR/>The only downside of the book trying to convey all those three messages is that you should not expect 220 pages filled with ¿How Randomness Rules Our Lives¿. (Therefore, it is a four-star book for me. However, once you know this - before the purchase - it is a five star book. That¿s how expectations influence or perceptions; see around p. 133 in the book.)<BR/>The last 16 pages are dedicated references to other works that allow the interested reader to dig deep into the scientific realm of the topic. <BR/><BR/>Enjoy the book!<BR/>Jan Dominik Gunkel

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 13, 2009

    too complicated

    this book on statistics is just too complicated for the aver. reader.
    any book on stats should be generous with many charts or graphics.
    very hard to read, even though i'm a seasoned statistician i find it hard to follow. i expected a lot more.
    only good for maybe some professionals but not just general public.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 24, 2009

    A well written witty book for everyday thinking and any profession!

    Just finished this book and learned alot of interesting new ideas regarding the role of probability/chance in our lives. Found it fascinating as a physician, follower of my IRA investments, and as a mom. Ideas are laid out in a concise organized fashion. They are illustrated by a combination of anecdotes and more mathematical explanations which are pretty painless. It does not set out to be a comprehensive textbook on the idea of randomness, but to introduce and explain it to lay people such as myself.

    If you've enjoyed any of Gladwell Malcolm's or Simon Singh's books, you should definitely try this one!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Significant Study for Business Executives

    I have spent a great portion of my life observing the success (and sometimes failure) of using SPC in the workplace. This realm has been used and abused under many names such as TQM, Continuous Improvement, etc. What has always escaped me was the ability to use statistics to predict a supervisor or manager's success. Indeed, it may well be the most frustrating aspect of my career in human resources and production management. <BR/><BR/>Leonard Mlodinow provides great insight into the relationship between talent and success. While I have always believed in a person being in the right place at the right time, this book reinforces and bolsters the evidence that chance plays a greater role than what we suspect. <BR/><BR/>The organization I currently work for is in the throes of bankruptcy. In the last few weeks, a very intelligent, loyal, and competent CEO resigned (?) and has been replaced by another intelligent and competent CEO. He was `swamped by the effect of the uncontrollable elements of the system' as written in the book. As pointed out on page 188, the board made a change in management due to an `illusion' of control over chance events. To actually see it and then to read an exact prediction in a book tells me we should heed the work of this author. He knows of which he writes. <BR/><BR/>I am really interested in his `unequal influence' section and plan to do more experimental validation of this phenomenon in the near future. <BR/><BR/>This book is relevant, compelling, authoritative and well-researched. I would recommend it to anyone in the field of business. <BR/><BR/>I hope you find this review helpful. <BR/><BR/>Michael L. Gooch, SPHR - Author of Wingtips with Spurs Cowboy Wisdom for Today's Business Leaders.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A good heuristic introduction to the concepts of probability

    Mlodinow's book uses historical narrative to introduce the basic concepts of probability. The book is light on technical mathematics, focusing rather on the abstract concepts applied to simple, real life problems (i.e., the monty hall problem). The concepts are presented with great clarity, and the book is a relatively easy, non-technical read. I can't imagine that there is a better introduction for a newcomer to probability theory.<BR/><BR/>That said, anyone with a solid familiarity with probability theory may be disappointed by its lack of depth. The book should be considered in the same vein as Innumeracy, illustrating how our common sense deceives us when it comes to simple matters of probability. If you are looking for a book that deals with the complexities of probability in our lives, I would not recommend this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2014

    Fascinating fun

    Fascinating, fun review of history, mathematics, human nature, and how things come together in life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2012

    Fun fi Fun and interesting

    When i lesrned these subjects in school we learned the analytical techniques. The fun of this book is the everyday applications and the charming anecdotes. Also the broad overview and comparison of probability and statistics and the historical development is a great component of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    good historical review

    I really enjoyed Feynman's Rainbow by the same author, and this book is good too. It does a good review of the history of the study of randomness and has interesting little stories related to all the protagonists.

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  • Posted December 27, 2010

    A Wonderful Guide to Randomness

    A wonderful mathematical approach to randomness. Clearly worded and easy to follow. For those who have taken a college course in statistics, you will see practical applications being applied here. Great Book overall, I would highly recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2010

    Interesting

    interesting history of the study of randomness.

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  • Posted November 25, 2009

    Good Book

    Fantastic read for anyone out there that likes numbers, randomness, a brief history of probabilistic thinking, and the like - and wants a better understanding on how presentation impacts our decisions. Very easy to read, with illustrative examples that explain some commmon errors in reasoning associated with how numbers are used in arguments. Mlodinow writes in a conversational tone that makes it easy to pick up important points without being overwhelmed by math - in fact, all you need is common sense and a logigical thought process! Excellent book!

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Random or directed? Much of reality works by chance, we often can't accept that but here is why it is very important to embrace chance.

    This book is an extraordinary account of the development and meaning of randomness and its role in our lives. The concept of randomness is explored in this insightful and thought-provoking account in ways that show that 1) events really do happen by undirected chance, and that 2) we often cannot tell the difference between chance and our own desires for determinism.
    One of the most compelling parts for me was the description of the "Monte Hall Problem". This refers to the "Let's Make a Deal" TV show of the 60s and 70s and the unexpected and controversial probability calculations that resulted from one of the games on that show. Judging from what Mlodinow says, even some mathematicians might be advised to read about whether or not one should switch a choice from the proverbial door #1 to the choice proffered by the game show host.
    Another fascinating tale related by the author was his very personal and potentially terrifying encounter with the predictions of Bayes on false positives. Mlodinow's description of Bayesian theory and its consequences should be required reading for anyone who thinks that 'only' 1% false positives means that you hardly ever go wrong.
    You don't need a lot of math to enjoy and learn from this book and neither does the author talk down to anyone. What you will get is a sense of unease when you hear someone predict which mutual funds to buy or why a movie mogul got sacked. That sense of unease is good because it can lead to questioning things in a deeper sense of the word.

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  • Posted October 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A nice walk through Probability and Statistics

    Actually makes the topics clear, relevant and understandable. Liked the history and development of the study of statistics and probability Mlodinow presented.
    i bought this as a break from other subjects and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the read. Anything that makes math subjects interesting and accessible is great.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    If everything is random, how can we get a grip on anything?

    The answer is, of course, we can't.

    This book is full of history, examples, and statistics--all leading to the same conclusion, but we keep on reading hoping that some shred of control will be given us. The best thing we get is a view of reality:"In our lives . . . we can see through the microscope of close scrutiny that many major events would have turned out differently were it not for the random confluence of minor factors, people we've met by chance, job opportunities that randomly came our way." It's wisdom to see this, but we still reach beyond it for an abstraction:"The Secret" or "the will of God."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    Interesting read

    Not one to be read in one sitting, kind of the type that you read a chapter at a time. Uses interesting real examples to explain points. Well-researched.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    Randomness Rules Us

    This book is a definite read,not boring like most statistics books. It is funny and informative, plus you don't need a PhD in mathematics to understand it. He goes through the history of statistics from the birth of the age of reason to now. It gives a very good understanding to a lay person such as myself on how this was figured out. And how randomness can lead to evolution begetting more complex systems and why the meterologist can only predict at most three days into the future. Why the stock market is strictly random process and the so called gurus that predict stocks are just as likely and usually are wrong. So read this book if you want to understand how randomness rules us.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An interesting read for a rainy day

    Great topic and concept but sometimes can be a little excessive with historical backgrounds of each chapter. Overall a good read though.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

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    Posted August 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2011

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