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Chances Are . . .: Adventures in Probability
     

Chances Are . . .: Adventures in Probability

4.0 1
by Michael Kaplan
 

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A compelling journey through history, mathematics, and philosophy, charting humanity’s struggle against randomness

Our lives are played out in the arena of chance. However little we recognize it in our day-to-day existence, we are always riding the odds, seeking out certainty but settling—reluctantly—for likelihood, building our beliefs on

Overview

A compelling journey through history, mathematics, and philosophy, charting humanity’s struggle against randomness

Our lives are played out in the arena of chance. However little we recognize it in our day-to-day existence, we are always riding the odds, seeking out certainty but settling—reluctantly—for likelihood, building our beliefs on the shadowy props of probability. Chances Are is the story of man’s millennia-long search for the tools to manage the recurrent but unpredictable—to help us prevent, or at least mitigate, the seemingly random blows of disaster, disease, and injustice. In these pages, we meet the brilliant individuals who developed the first abstract formulations of probability, as well as the intrepid visionaries who recognized their practical applications—from gamblers to military strategists to meteorologists to medical researchers, from blackjack to our own mortality.

Editorial Reviews

"The probable is what usually happens." Over the centuries, Aristotle's simple formulation has blossomed into an entire science of likelihood. Indeed, probability and statistics underpin every science and numerous other human activities, including economics, politics, insurance, medicine, and sports. Michael and Ellen Kaplan's Chances Are shows that we often resist the lessons of life's odds even when we know them.
William Grimes
The Kaplans cover a lot of ground very quickly, but they have a finely tuned sense of where the general reader is likely to lose a grip on the math, or on the complexities of an argument, and adjust accordingly. A timely example, or a well-placed quotation, relieves undue pressure on the brain, and the fast pace helps reinforce one of the book's central points, that questions of probability surround nearly every aspect of our daily lives. A strategy of "calibrated incoherence," for example, can lead to victory in a game of rock/paper/scissors, and police departments are quite interested in probabilistic algorithms that allow them to map crime patterns.
— The New York Times
The New Yorker
This fascinating layman’s trek through probability theory, from its roots in dice games in the seventeenth century to its role in modern-day thermodynamics, tackles humanity’s innate need to seek order in even the most chaotic phenomena. The authors, a mother-and-son team, address simple problems (How many shuffles make a deck of cards truly random? At least seven) and more complex ones (Can time move backward? Yes, but it’s unlikely). They do not avoid mathematical equations, but both have backgrounds in the humanities, and their sense of whimsy—“Once you know that daisies usually have an odd number of petals, you can get anyone to love you”—allows them to draw stimulating conclusions.
Publishers Weekly
Everything is possible, yet only one thing happens": this is the essence of probability, quantifying what could happen. Filmmaker Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan (coauthor of The Art of the Infinite) trace probability back to its original conception in the 1660s (by a gambler, of course) and show how it affected not only science, which would be impossible without it, but also religion and philosophy. Many pioneers of the math that grew into statistics were trying to define the divine; the inventor of combinatorics, for example, was a medieval missionary seeking to convert Muslims by showing that any statement combining the qualities of God was true in the Christian faith. This book rigorously develops its math from first principles with a passion that would make even an amateur heady with the possibilities contained within a bell curve. The authors explore the promise of the math of probabilities through its most powerful modern applications, from determining the effectiveness of new drugs to weighing the merits of combat strategies. In all these cases, the authors place the study of probability firmly in the context of humanity's ongoing struggle to assign meaning to randomness. Never before has statistics been treated with such awe and devotion. (Mar. 27) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440684517
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/27/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
754 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Michael Kaplan studied European history at Harvard and Oxford. After a stint as producer/director at WGBH, he has been an award-winning writer and filmmaker working abroad for clients including governments, corporations, museums, and charities.

Ellen Kaplan trained as a classical archaeologist and has taught math, biology, Greek, Latin, and history.She and her husband, Robert, run the Math Circle, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to joyous participatory learning, and are the authors of The Art of the Infinite.

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Chances Are: Adventures in Probability 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely interesting because it gives the originis of many mistakes we make when we calculate probabilities. Establishes difference between statistics and probability. It is an eye opener to the chances in many day-to-day situations.