Conned Again,Watson!: Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math, and Probability

Overview

In Conned Again, Watson!, Colin Bruce re-creates the atmosphere of the original Sherlock Holmes stories to shed light on an enduring truth: Our reliance on common sense-and ignorance of mathematics-often gets us into trouble. In these cautionary tales of greedy gamblers, reckless businessmen, and ruthless con men, Sherlock Holmes uses his deep understanding of probability, statistics, decision theory, and game theory to solve crimes and protect the innocent. But it's not just the characters in these well-crafted ...

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Overview

In Conned Again, Watson!, Colin Bruce re-creates the atmosphere of the original Sherlock Holmes stories to shed light on an enduring truth: Our reliance on common sense-and ignorance of mathematics-often gets us into trouble. In these cautionary tales of greedy gamblers, reckless businessmen, and ruthless con men, Sherlock Holmes uses his deep understanding of probability, statistics, decision theory, and game theory to solve crimes and protect the innocent. But it's not just the characters in these well-crafted stories that are deceived by statistics or fall prey to gambling fallacies. We all suffer from the results of poor decisions. In this illuminating collection, Bruce entertains while teaching us to avoid similar blunders. From "The Execution of Andrews" to "The Case of the Gambling Nobleman," there has never been a more exciting way to learn when to take a calculated risk-and how to spot a scam.

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Editorial Reviews

Discover
London's master sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson, live again, thwarting criminals and con men with the aid of statistics and game theory in amusing short stories penned by physicist Bruce.
KLIATT
This is a highly readable and engaging introduction to many aspects of probability, logic and statistics. Bruce focuses his stories, set in turn-of-the-century London with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as the main characters, on aspects of mathematics where common sense frequently leads people astray. For example, the first story presents the cab drivers' fallacy, in which cab drivers set themselves a daily revenue target and work until they achieve it, then knock off for the rest of the day. This results in working longer hours on slow days and fewer hours on busy days. In fact, it is a wiser strategy to work longer hours on busy days, when customers are plentiful, and quit early on slow, unproductive days. The first chapter may puzzle readers not familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories, as the time frame is not completely obvious, but Bruce makes it clear in the second chapter that these stories all take place around 1900. Several historical figures make interesting guest appearances (e.g., Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll). There are no equations in the book, as it was meant to be read through and not used as a textbook, but there is a bibliography for those wanting to delve more deeply into specific subjects. All in all, the book is a good read and is useful to mathematics teachers looking for ways to interest and motivate their students in specific topics in probability, logic, and statistics. Category: Science. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Perseus, 290p. illus. index., $15.00. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Thomas S. Downey; Teacher, Rivers Sch., Weston, MA SOURCE: KLIATT, March2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738205892
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 230,962
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Bruce is a physicist and science writer living in Oxford, England. He is an expert in mathematical paradoxes and a lover of mysteries.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments ix
1 The Case of the Unfortunate Businessman 1
2 The Case of the Gambling Nobleman 19
3 The Case of the Surprise Heir 45
4 The Case of the Ancient Mariner 65
5 The Case of the Unmarked Graves 85
6 The Case of the Martian Invasion 115
7 Three Cases of Unfair Preferment 141
8 The Execution of Andrews 161
9 Three Cases of Relative Honor 181
10 The Case of the Poor Observer 207
11 The Case of the Perfect Accountant 225
12 Three Cases of Good Intentions 247
Afterword 275
Index 289
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