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“A fun, spunky, wise little book that would be helpful to both the consumers of the news and its purveyors.”—Washington Post
The Top 10 list has become a staple of newspapers, television, and magazines for a variety of reasons, the top ten being:
1. Ten is a common and familiar number, the base of our number system. Numbers are rounded to 10 or to multiples of ten or tenths. The resulting distortion, of course, need not have much to do with reality. We're told, for example, that we use 10 percent of our brain power, that 10 percent of us consume 90 percent of the world's resources, and that decades define us. (Is there anything more vapid than explanation by decade? In the free love, antiwar sixties, hippies felt so and so; the greed of the eighties led yuppies to do such and such; sullen and unread Generation Xers never do anything.)
2. People like information to be encapsulated; they're impatient with long, discursive explanations. They want the bare facts, and they want them now.
3. The list is consistent with a linear approach to problems. Nothing is complex or convoluted; every factor can be ranked. If we do a, b, or c, then x, y, or z will happen. Proportionality reigns.
4. It's a kind of ritual. Numbers are often associated with rites, and this is a perfect example.
5. It has biblical resonance, the Ten Commandments being one of its first instances. Others are the ten plagues on the Egyptians, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the requirement that at least ten men be present for public prayer, and Joseph's ten brothers.
6. The list can be a complete story. It has a beginning: 1, 2, 3; a middle: 4, 5, 6, 7; and an end, 8, 9, 10. Many stories in the news are disconnected; the list is unitary.
7. It's easy to write; there is no need to come up with transitions. Or even complete sentences. The same holds for the 10, 50, and 100 years ago today fillers.
8. It's flexible and capable of handling any subject. Since there are never any clear criteria for what constitutes an entry on such a list, items on short lists can easily be split, and those on long lists can just as easily be combined.
9. Lists are widely read (or heard) and talked about, but don't require much room in the paper or much airtime.
10. People realize it's an artificial form and like to see if it's going to run out of good points before it gets to 10.
|Lani "Quota Queen" Guinier: Voting, Power, and Mathematics||9|
|Bosnia: Is It Vietnam or World War II?: Psychological Availability and Anchoring Effects||14|
|Recession Forecast If Steps Not Taken: Unpredictability, Chaos, and Pooh-Poohing the Pooh-Bahs||19|
|Afta Nafta, Lafta; Free Traders Exult: Headlines and the Inverted Pyramid||27|
|Pakistan's Bhutto Gambles in Trade Negotiations: On Dice and Bluffing||30|
|Clinton, Dole in Sparring Roles: Who's News and Grammar Checkers||34|
|Iraqi Death Toll Unknown: Benchmark Figures in War, Crisis, and the Economy||38|
|D'Amato Agrees Hillary Most Honest Person Clinton Knows: Ambiguity and Nonstandard Models||42|
|Fraud Alleged in Pennsylvania Senate Race: Political and Mathematical Regression||45|
|Cult Members Accuse Government of Plot: Newspapers, Coincidences, and Conspiracy Theories||49|
|Company Charged with Ethnic Bias in Hiring: Test Disparities Need Not Imply Racism||59|
|SAT Top Quartile Score Declines: Correlation, Prediction, and Improvement||63|
|Guns Will Soon Kill More Than Cars: Comparability and Intensity||67|
|Abortion Activists Bomb Clinic: Prohibitions and Arithmetical Arguments||69|
|DNA Fingers Murderer: Life, Death, and Conditional Probability||72|
|Darts Trounce the Pros: Luck and the Market||74|
|Cellular Phones Tied to Brain Cancer: Multiplication, Health, and Business||79|
|GM Trucks Explode on Side Collision: From Pity to Policy||83|
|The $32 Billion Pepsi Challenge: Advertising and Numerical Craftiness||86|
|Brief Fads Dominate Toy Industry: S-Curves and Novelty||90|
|Area Residents Respond to Story: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition||94|
|Researchers Look to Local News for Trends: The Present, the Future, and Ponzi Schemes||96|
|A Cyberpunk Woody Allen: How to Write a Profile of the Fledgling Celebrity||101|
|Tsongkerclintkinbro Wins: Everybody's Got an Angle||104|
|Florida Dentist Accused of Intentionally Spreading AIDS: Rumors, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and National Obsessions||107|
|Interlude: Selves, Heroes, and Dissociation||110|
|Candidates Contradict Each Other's Denials: Self-Reference, Intentions, and the News||113|
|Special Investigator Says Full Story Not Told: Compressibility and the Complexity Horizon||120|
|Newspaper Circulation Down: Factoids on Tabloids||126|
|Computers, Faxes, Copiers Still Rare in Russia: Information and the Commissars||128|
|Ranking Health Risks: Experts and Laymen Differ: The Dyscalculia Syndrome||133|
|Asbestos Removal Closes NYC Schools: Contaminated Mountains Out of Mole Spills||140|
|Super Collider a Waste of Money: Science Journalism and Advocacy||144|
|Harvard Psychiatrist Believes Patients Abducted by Aliens: Mathematically Creating One's Own Pseudoscience||147|
|FDA Caught Between Opposing Protesters: Statistical Tests and Confidence Intervals||151|
|Senators Eye Hawaii Health Care Plan: Scaling Up Is So Very Hard to Do||154|
|Breakthrough Forecast by End of Decade: You Can't Know More Than You Know||157|
|Rodent Population Patterns Difficult to Fathom: Ecology, Chaos, and the News||160|
|More Dismal Math Scores for U.S. Students: X, Y, and U||164|
|761 Calories, 428 Mgs. Sodium, 22.6 Grams of Fat per Serving: Meaningless Precision||171|
|Top Designs for the Busy Working Woman: Fashion, Unpredictability, and Toast||173|
|Agassi Wins Again: Scoring and Amplifying Differences||176|
|New Survey Reveals Changing Attitudes: Societal Gas Laws||178|
|Near-Perfect Game for Roger Clemens: How Many Runs in the Long Run||181|
|Bucks County and Environs: A Note on Maps and Graphic Games||184|
|Ask About Your Mother-in-Law's Lladro: Explanation, Advice, and Physics||186|
|Garden Club Gala: Incidence Matrices on the Society Pages||189|
|Ten Reasons We Hate Our Bosses: Lists and Linearity||191|
|Stallone on Worst-Dressed List: Traits and Rates||193|
|New Biography Fills Much-Needed Gap: Books and News||195|
|Which Way Mecca?: Religion in the Paper||197|
|R. L. Vickler, 85, Aide to Truman: The Length of Obituaries||199|
Posted October 19, 2009
Genius: A clear, simple, interesting and engaging approach to quantitative literacy. We would be a smarter nation if everyone read this enjoyable book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 9, 2002
Yes, you read that correct. Entertaining. This book walks you through basic statistics and applies it to everyday situations. This book will make you chuckle and think at the same time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.