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

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

by Amir D. Aczel
     
 

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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, layman's terms, and shows its practical applications.

What is commonly called luck has mathematical roots and in Chance, you'll learn to increase

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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, layman'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. For thousands of years, the twin forces of chance and mischance have beguiled humanity like none other. Why does fortune smile on some people, and smirk on others? What is luck, and why does it so often visit the undeserving? How can we predict the random events happening around us? Even better, how can we manipulate them? In this delightful and lucid voyage through the realm of the random, Dr. Aczel once again makes higher mathematics intelligible to us.

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:
9781560257943
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
01/09/2006
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
1,314,730
Product dimensions:
4.88(w) x 7.48(h) x 0.50(d)

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