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In Math on Trial, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez describe ten trials spanning from the nineteenth century to today, in which mathematical arguments were used—and disastrously misused—as evidence. They tell the stories of Sally Clark, ...
In Math on Trial, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez describe ten trials spanning from the nineteenth century to today, in which mathematical arguments were used—and disastrously misused—as evidence. They tell the stories of Sally Clark, who was accused of murdering her children by a doctor with a faulty sense of calculation; of nineteenth-century tycoon Hetty Green, whose dispute over her aunt’s will became a signal case in the forensic use of mathematics; and of the case of Amanda Knox, in which a judge’s misunderstanding of probability led him to discount critical evidence—which might have kept her in jail. Offering a fresh angle on cases from the nineteenth-century Dreyfus affair to the murder trial of Dutch nurse Lucia de Berk, Schneps and Colmez show how the improper application of mathematical concepts can mean the difference between walking free and life in prison.
A colorful narrative of mathematical abuse, Math on Trial blends courtroom drama, history, and math to show that legal expertise isn’t always enough to prove a person innocent.
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Schneps and Colmez’s clever use of headline-grabbing case studies and digestible explanations of mathematical problems combine to argue for the careful use of numbers by advocates and lay juries alike. Their warnings remain relevant today as courtrooms face greater use of DNA evidence and other sophisticated forensic technologies.”
“The authors shine, and the dramatic presentation [of the court cases] will grip many readers . [Math on Trial] stimulates both thought and interest .Engaging reading.”
“An entertaining tour of courtroom calculations gone wrong . The cases they describe are independently interesting, and the mathematical overlay makes them doubly so . As the problems are unraveled and the correct analyses explained, readers will enjoy a satisfying sense of discovery. Schneps and Colmez write with lucidity and an infectious enthusiasm, making this an engaging and unique blend of true crime and mathematics.”
“Fill[ed] with wonderful accounts of frauds and forgeries involving the likes of Charles Ponzi, Hetty Green and Alfred Dreyfus .the authors’ analysis of the recent Amanda Knox case [is] particularly chilling . [Math on Trial is] intrinsically fascinating in its depiction of the frailty of human judgments.”
Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of x
“Taut and gripping, Math on Trial just might establish a new genre, in which true crime story meets the best of popular science. Utterly absorbing from start to finish.”
Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan, authors of Chances Are
: Adventures in Probability and Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err Is Human
“The originator of sociology, Auguste Comte, said that applying probability to moral questions was the scandal of mathematics. Math On Trial charts the ambivalent—occasionally disastrous—role that math has played in several classic and some recent legal cases. It vividly shows how the desire for ‘scientific’ certainty can lead even well-meaning courts to commit grave injustice. There ought to be a copy in every jury room.”