How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Freakonomics of matha math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands




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How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

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Overview

The Freakonomics of matha math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands




The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.





Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?





How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.





Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.




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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For most of us, mathematics above the level of, say, x + y= z, is an arcane system that really doesn't tell us much about the world in which we really live. University of Wisconsin math professor and "Do the Math" Slate blogger Jordan Ellenberg is here to tell us that even in this imperfect realm, math acutely perceived does have meaningful everyday real-world applications. In a book that has been praised already by Publishers Weekly as "wry, accessible, and entertaining," he writes about numerical matters about everything from the Affordable Care Act, baseball, and stock predictions to why tall parents have short children. Sample chapter titles include "How Much Is It That in Dead Americans?" and "Does Lung Cancer Make You Smoke Cigarettes?"

The New York Times Book Review - Jennifer Ouellette
Ellenberg introduces basic mathematical tools in lively prose peppered with examples…Refreshingly lucid while still remaining conceptually rigorous, this book lends insight into how mathematicians think—and shows us how we can start to think like mathematicians as well.
Publishers Weekly
★ 04/21/2014
In this wry, accessible, and entertaining exploration of everyday math, Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, shows readers how “knowing mathematics is like wearing a pair of X-ray specs” that reveal the hidden structure of the world. Too often, mathematics is taught as a “long list of rules” without any real-world application. Ellenberg stresses that even the most complex math is based on common sense and then proves it with examples that take the abstract and make it real. Lines and curves provide the foundation for explorations of the Affordable Care Act and the infamous Laffer curve (with a Ferris Bueller shout-out). The ancient and “extremely weird” Pythagoreans help us calculate the area of a tuna fish sandwich. The search for patterns in large, seemingly random data leads to a fascinating discussions of lotteries and of why “reading” sheep entrails isn’t a good way to predict stock prices. From discussing the difference between correlation and causation, to how companies use big data to predict your interests and preferences, Ellenberg finds the common-sense math at work in the everyday world, and his vivid examples and clear descriptions show how “math is woven into the way we reason.” Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-17
It's time to drop the idea that mathematics is an esoteric field best left to a few academics. In fact, writes Ellenberg (Mathematics/Univ. of Wisconsin), the truth is better: Math is everywhere, and the knowledge it yields can benefit everyone.The structure of the world around us—everything from the genetics that determine height to intricacies of electoral politics—is infused with the principles of mathematics. Ellenberg, author of the "Do the Math" column at Slate, argues that math is not relegated to the set of hard and fast rules taught in classrooms. Instead, the field is an extension of common sense that has the potential for sophisticated and deeply insightful applications that produce better results than common sense alone. The author avoids heavy jargon and relies on real-world anecdotes and basic equations and illustrations to communicate how even simple math is a powerful tool. In addition to grand applications like those used in calculus or physics, mathematical principles can be wielded pragmatically to improve decision-making and better parse splashy claims made about the stock market or lottery—or, more humorously, claims that hidden codes embedded in the Bible can predict the future. Importantly, Ellenberg insists that improbable things happen all the time, and they can't be taken at face value; there is frequently more information available that will improve a calculation's result and eliminate statistical anomalies, however tempting those are to believe. The author writes that, at its core, math is a special thing and produces a feeling of understanding unattainable elsewhere: "You feel you've reached into the universe's guts and put your hand on the wire." Math is profound, and profoundly awesome, so we should use it well—or risk being wrong.Witty and expansive, Ellenberg's math will leave readers informed, intrigued and armed with plenty of impressive conversation starters.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780698163843
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/29/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 16,343
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author


Jordan Ellenberg is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has lectured around the world on his research in number theory and delivered one of the plenary addresses at the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings, the largest math conference in the world. His writing has appeared in WiredThe New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe Boston Globe, and The Believer, and he has been featured on the Today show and NPR’s All Things Considered. He writes a popular column called “Do the Math” for Slate.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    Worth the time, worth the money.

    Well-written, focused, and genuinely helpful in teaching the layman how to apply mathematical principles to everyday problems. Recommended reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2014

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