Chance: A Guide to Gambling, Love, the Stock Market & Just About Everything Else

Overview

"In Chance, celebrated mathematician Amir D. Aczel turns his sights on probability theory - the branch of mathematics that measures the likelihood of a random event. He explains probability in clear, layperson's terms, and shows its practical applications." What is commonly called "luck" has mathematical roots - and in Chance, you'll learn to increase your odds of success in everything from true love to the stock market.
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Overview

"In Chance, celebrated mathematician Amir D. Aczel turns his sights on probability theory - the branch of mathematics that measures the likelihood of a random event. He explains probability in clear, layperson's terms, and shows its practical applications." What is commonly called "luck" has mathematical roots - and in Chance, you'll learn to increase your odds of success in everything from true love to the stock market.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The baffling, for some, subject of chance and luck is demystified in this sketchy but engaging treatise. Mathematician Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem) includes some equations, but mostly sticks to grade-school arithmetic and a few easy story problems in explicating the mathematics of probability. He untangles a number of urgent conundrums, including why buses always seem to run late, why any group of 31 people will include two with the same birthday and why random walks can model the stock market. The book abounds in counterintuitive life lessons. You shouldn't gamble, he says, but if you do then you are better off, probability-wise, if you blow your whole wad on a single spin of the roulette wheel than if you parcel it out in smaller bets. And the lovelorn can take comfort in knowing that, if you just keep dating, the odds are surprisingly good that your soul mate will turn up. Indeed, "[y]ou will maximize your probability of finding the best spouse if you date thirty-seven percent of the available candidates in your life, and then choose to stay with the next candidate who is better than all previous ones." Aczel's treatments of some topics, like game theory, are so perfunctory as to barely register, but his light touch generally makes probability come alive. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mathematician Aczel has written several books on mathematical and scientific topics for the general public (e.g., Fermat's Last Theorem). In this new work, he once again explains the elements of probability theory for lay readers. In a clear exposition appropriately seasoned with bits of humor, he carefully points out that some of the results of probabilistic calculations can seem contrary to common sense and can even surprise experienced mathematicians and scientists such as himself; nevertheless, the results are mathematically sound and must be accepted. After the text, there are 22 problems, along with their answers. It is not often that one can recommend a mathematics book as good-quality "light" reading, but this work fits the bill.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Are you a betting person? Here's how to calculate the odds. Mathematician Aczel (Pendulum, 2003, etc.) surveys probability theory, using no math more complex than algebra. He defines probability, then devotes each short chapter to explaining how it works in some concrete instance, such as the odds of drawing a spade from a deck of cards. Building from simpler to more complex examples, the author offers insights into phenomena that seem counterintuitive to many nonmathematicians, such as the "gambler's ruin," a proof that while the so-called law of averages will in the long run produce results that fit the predictions of simplistic mathematics, there is no guarantee that they will do so in the short run. In one long trial of coin flips, the number of heads stayed above the number of tails for nearly three thousand turns; in the very long run, it did even out, but gamblers relying on a 50-50 split would have been bankrupted long before the law of averages came to their rescue. Another counterintuitive result is the likelihood that in a group of 23 people, 2 will share a birthday; Aczel shows how to calculate it. Other startling coincidences, like a chance acquaintance turning out to be your wife's high-school classmate, depend on an extended web of interests and relationships that give all of us more in common than we realize. The author even manages to tie something as apparently esoteric as Baye's Theorem to everyday discourse by way of the "Monty Hall Problem," based on the three doors contestants had to choose among on Let's Make a Deal. A set of problems at the end lets readers test their understanding, and an appendix applies Aczel's insights to common gambling games. An entertainingintroduction to one of the most universally relevant and most widely misunderstood branches of mathematics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568583167
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/10/2004
  • Pages: 161
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.58 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Amir D. Aczel earned both his BA in mathematics and Master of Science degree from the University of Oregon. Among many other books, he is the author of Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery in Physics; The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity; and Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem, which was translated into fifteen languages. He is an internationnaly known mathematician and lives in Boston.

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Table of Contents

1 What is probability? 1
2 Measuring the probability 5
3 The law of unions 9
4 Independence of events 11
5 Subjective probability 17
6 The complement of an event, and the union of independent events 25
7 Random walks and the gambler's ruin 41
8 What is randomness? 53
9 Pascal's triangle 59
10 The inspection paradox 63
11 The birthday problem 69
12 Coincidences 77
13 How to succeed in love (find the best apartment, or adopt the best puppy) 85
14 How the make decisions under uncertainty 89
15 Game strategies 93
16 Bayes's theorem 95
17 The normal curve 105
18 Understanding the presidential election (and other) polls 113
19 Conclusion 119
Appendix 133
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