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Dicing with Death: Chance, Risk and Health Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0521540230 ISBN-10: 0521540232 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (November 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521540232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521540230
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,181,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stephen Senn has attempted to do for medical statistics what Stephen Hawking did for physics in A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press, 1988) and Simon Singh did for pure mathematics in Fermat's Last Theorem (Fourth Estate, 1997). I think he has succeeded."
British Medical Journal

"...this work demonstrates an erudition and a breadth of knowledge not often found today. The author clearly enjoyed writing it and the reader will delight as much in the reading."
Mathematical Reviews

"Whether your taste is for the nitty-gritty of controversies, like the alleged link between childhood MMR vaccination and autism, or for pensive reflection on the philsophy of knowledge, you will find much of value here."
New Scientist

"Dicing with Death is worthwhile reading for just about any statistician. It also clarifies the key role data collection and analysis play in scientific discovery, so this book would be highly recommended as well to non-statisticians who work in fields that are based on data. Historians of science would also find this book enjoyable and informative."
Computational Statistics

"In Dicing with Death, Senn sets out to 'explain how important statistics is' and takes the reader on a wild, thought-provoking and always entertaining ride through biostatistics and beyond. Modern statistical science is the product of a long and fascinating history, and Senn delights in recounting the development of important ideas...Senn is often uproariously funny, which is remarkable in a book that covers so much technical, philosophical and historical ground."
Canadian Medical Association Journal

"Senn is urbane, charming, and often funny ... you might need a dictionary occasionally, but otherwise you can read this in bed or on the beach, and it won't be out of place. Bandolier loved it."
Bandolier

“What makes this book valuable is Senn's rich experience in both the pharmaceutical industry and academia. By weaving this experience with his wealth of knowledge of the history of medical statistics, he is able to tie together important concepts in a way that is both instructive and entertaining. Senn, Professor of Statistics at Glasgow University, has obviously polished many of these lessons from his teaching experience...Stephen Senn's book is an entertaining, thought-provoking collection of stories valuable for those who teach biostatistics.”
Teaching of Statistics in the Health Sciences Newsletter

"... an entertaining read, and a book to make you feel good about being a statistician? Very much so! ... I defy pharmaceutical statisticians anywhere not to benefit ... a great read. This is the ideal book for the pharmaceutical statistician who wants to broaden their knowledge of their chosen subject."
Pharmaceutical Statistics

"Dicing with Death is a rarity: a book about statistics for the general public ... Senn certainly seems to have had fun ... there is plenty of solid stuff mixed in with the fun. If you're tired of trying to persuade people that "statisticians count", why not take the easy way out and give them this book?"
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society

"The style of the book is discursive and it is very entertaining. In addition to being excellent for students and practitioners of the subject, it should be made essential reading for all those in public life who make critical decisions in the areas of medicine, politics, law and the media."
Short Book Reviews

"Exciting! Exquisite! Whoever thought reading a statistics book could never be exciting needs to read this book! ... This is a book to recommend to anyone who seeks to learn and understand what statistics is all about and what (medical) statisticians really do. On the scale of 1-5 where 5 [stands for] 'definitely recommended', it rates a solid 5!"
Statistics in Medicine

"The book tackles a wide range of what to the public are quite difficult problems. However, Senn tackles these with such an elegant manner that even the most complex topics are presented with great clarity ... Reading the book for this review has been a great pleasure - the enthusiasm of the author for his subject is clear and it rubs off onto the reader. ... the book is suitable for just about any reader - be they interested members of the public or professional statisticians. All that is required is an inquisitive mind and a few spare hours!"
Statistical Methods in Medical Research

"Reading the book is like attending the lectures of a curmudgeonly but beloved professor...The real enjoyment of this book though comes with seeing the impact that the mathematical sciences can have when the outcomes are literally life and death."
MAA Reviews, Steven R. Dunbar, University of Nebraska

"Senn treats a variety of very important and interesting topics...Throughout the book Senn mixes history, practical applications, and some technical detail in thoroughly engaging prose. In fact, perhaps the best thing going for this book is the charming wit and style of its author...the work [is] very charming and enlightening."
CQ Review

"The book is a good entry into medical statistics. The reader will find all the standard topics, including design of experiments, significance testing, estimation, basic probability, regression, contingency tables, surveys, confounding, clinical trials, and Bayes's theorem. Almost all topics are discussed with examples and the personalities that developed or made them useful. There are also topics and biographies that an advanced reader (such as a statistics graduate student) will come across for the first time."
The American Statistician

Book Description

Stephen Senn explains how statistics determines many decisions about medical care, from allocating resources for health, to determining which drugs to license, to cause-and-effect in relation to disease. He tackles big themes: clinical trials and the development of medicines, life tables, vaccines and their risks (or lack of them), smoking and lung cancer and even the power of prayer. He shows why reasoning with probability is essential to making rational decisions in medicine, and how it guides us when faced with choices that affect our health and even life.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By David J. Aldous on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent! The focus is on statistics in medicine, but the book zigzags through recent issues (ethics and politics of clinical trials, lawyer's abuse of statistical evidence, vaccine scares), sometimes sophisticated analysis of particular data, combined with explanation and history of basic concepts, with half-page biographies of historical and modern statisticians going far beyond the usual suspects. Has the lively style of The Economist, addressing a mentally alert adult reader rather than a casual reader or bored student. In particular, readers who have taken one course in statistics will get a view of "the big picture", and this is the best single book for that purpose.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By K. Fung on March 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Senn provides a broad introduction to key statistical ideas relevant to medicine and epidemiology. He switches effortlessly between basic concepts such as hypothesis testing, standard error and conditional probabilities to deep philosophy such as Bayesian versus frequentist schools, irrationality of induction and the use of meta-analysis. His style is highly readable mixing technical content with historical anecdotes and startling digressions.

The ideal reader is someone who has a decent background in statistics, such as that gained in a university-level statistics course.

The key strengths of the book include: (1) clear, lucid explanation of many concepts including modern ones not typically covered in first courses -- for instance, the contrast between Bayesian and frequentist approaches is done much better here than in most other books; (2) about 1/2-1/3 of the examples come from the real world (the remainder split between coin tossing experiments and hypotheticals), which is a high proportion among this sort of books; (3) good discussion of intuition and reasoning as opposed to just formulae.

The weaknesses (quibbles) include: (1) Senn's penchant for puns and word play provides humor but can get in the way of understanding the material; (2) his frequent digressions leave a host of loose ends and dead ends, which can frustrate some readers but for others, this strategy reveals exciting avenues for further exploration.

This is really a great book for someone who knows some statistics and really want to dig much deeper into the intuition and philosophy behind this field.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Huh Moon Yul on February 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
The title of the book and the first page of the first chapter gave me a thrill, and I thanked my friend who introduced me this book. There are plenty of examples and anecdotes that cannot be found in usual statistical books. The author tries to cover many topics in statistics, ranging from the concept of probability to experimental designs. However, I do not know the target reader of the book. If it is for the novice statisticians, writings will be too complicated; if it is for the educated statisticians, explanation is too wordy. For example, the author tries to verbally explain marginal, conditional and joint probability using a 2 by 2 contiongency table spending a whole 1 page. Novice statisticians will find the explanation unnecessarily complicated; the educated will find it unnecessarily lengthy and redundant. Some, if not most, examples are quite complicated and cannot be grasped just by reading the book unless the reader is already well familiar with the concept of the examples. If the reader is already familiar with the examples, he/she will find them trivial; if not, will later find out that the reader has spent too much time unnecessarily to understand them.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John on May 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have just completed 2 semesters of graduate level biostats and I find this book really dense and excessively wordy. I think this is a cultural issue being that he is from England. When I bought the book I was hoping for a Malcolm Gladwell type of breakdown of medical statistics. Unfortunately, the author doesn't have Malcolm's ability to tell a really good story using high level theories.

I bought this book first to read on a long trip and second to reinforce the knowledge I have worked so hard to understand. Since I am going on a long trip I gambled on this book and lost. Now I am stuck with one less book.
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