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Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do [Kindle Edition]

Kaiser Fung
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

WHAT ARE THE ODDS YOU'LL WIN THE LOTTERY?

How long will your kids wait in line at Disney World?

Who decides that “standardized tests” are fair?

Why do highway engineers build slow-moving ramps?

What does it mean, statistically, to be an “Average Joe”?

NUMBERS RULE YOUR WORLD

In the popular tradition of eye-opening bestsellers like Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, and Super Crunchers, this fascinating book from renowned statistician and blogger Kaiser Fung takes you inside the hidden world of facts and figures that affect you every day, in every way.

These are the statistics that rule your life, your job, your commute, your vacation, your food, your health, your money, and your success. This is how engineers calculate your quality of living, how corporations determine your needs, and how politicians estimate your opinions. These are the numbers you never think about-even though they play a crucial role in every single aspect of your life.

What you learn may surprise you, amuse you, or even enrage you. But there's one thing you won't be able to deny: Numbers Rule Your World…

"An easy read with a big benefit."

—Fareed Zakaria, CNN

"For those who have anxiety about how organization data-mining is impacting their world, Kaiser Fung pulls back the curtain to reveal the good and the bad of predictive analytics."

—Ian Ayres,Yale professor and author of Super Crunchers: Why Thinking By Numbers is the New Way to Be Smart

"A book that engages us with stories that a journalist would write, the compelling stories behind the stories as illuminated by the numbers, and the dynamics that the numbers reveal."

—John Sall, Executive Vice President, SAS Institute

"Little did I suspect, when I picked up Kaiser Fung's book, that I would become so entranced by it - an illuminating and accessible exploration of the power of statistical analysis for those of us who have no prior training in a field that he explores so ably."

—Peter Clarke, author of Keynes: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century's Most Influential Economist

"A tremendous book. . . . If you want to understand how to use statistics, how to think with numbers and yet to do this without getting lost in equations, if you've been looking for the book to unlock the door to logical thinking about problems, well, you will be pleased to know that you are holding that book in your hands."

—Daniel Finkelstein, Executive Editor, The Times of London

"I thoroughly enjoyed this accessible book and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking to understand and appreciate the role of statistics and data analysis in solving problems and in creating a better world."

—Michael Sherman, Texas A&M University, American Statistician



Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kaiser Fung is a statistician with more than a decade of experience in applying statistical methods to unlocking the relationship between advertising and customer behaviors. His blog, "Junk Charts," pioneered the genre of critically examining data and graphics in the mass media. Since 2005, "Junk Charts" has received rave reviews from Science magazine, the Guardian, Yahoo!, and Stanford University Libraries. He is an adjunct professor at New York University where he teaches practical statistics to professionals, and holds statistics, business, and engineering degrees from Cambridge, Harvard, and Princeton Universities. Fung is also a fellow of the Royal Statistics Society.


Product Details

  • File Size: 853 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0071626530
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (January 25, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003GIPECW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,496 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Statistical Thinking Through Practical Stories February 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This book shows how statistical thinking works and how it's benefiting our lives. It's an easy-read book without a lot of jargon or, surprisingly, numbers. I found the book to be engaging - through the use of stories - and helpful in understanding something that otherwise could be quite dull.

"Statistical thinking is distinct from everyday thinking. It is a skill that is learned. ... many applied scientists routinely use statistical thinking on the job," the author says. Statistical thinking is also often counter-intuitive. And this was my biggest take-away from this interesting book.

Using the premise that we can learn statistical thinking and that we can apply it in everyday situations, Fung provides 10 stories to teach 5 big principles of statistical thinking:

1. Variability over Averages: Statistical average isn't the key, deviation from the average is.
2. Correlation over Cause and Effect: Cause and effect might provide rational explanation, but unexplained correlation is also useful and quicker to find.
3. Group differences over Group averages: Differences within groups are hidden by averaging groups together.
4. Errors are both positive and negative: Minimizing mistakes creates mistakes of a different kind.
5. The Impossible really is Impossible: Don't believe what is too rare to be true.

The stories are applications of these principles in things we're all interested in. Like, the shortest waiting time at Disneyland, finding the source of a deadly E. coli outbreak, financial credit scores, highway traffic meters, steroid testing in Major League Baseball, SAT test writers, lie-detector tests, uncovering a lottery scam, and the safety record of airlines.

If you liked Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, you'll most likely appreciate this book too.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With Depth, And Figures To Support March 31, 2010
Format:Hardcover
It is hard not to make the comparison between "Numbers Rule Your World" and "Freakonomics". Even the book has made a reference once. Ten real life case studies are used, paired up in five chapters, to illustrate how different aspects of statistics affect our lives. Blogger statistician Kaiser Fung has made the topic surprisingly accessible, narrated in an engaging manner. Each chapter, the author picks two contrasting statistically related topics, juxtaposes them by taking turn to have the story told, and arrives at a conclusion. The narration is honest, impartially inquired from different angles. One of the author's objectives - besides convincing us that like it or not, numbers play a major role in our world today - I believe, is to expand our mind and horizon when interpreting certain situations as numbers are presented. And to appreciate what goes on behind the scene in your everyday life.

To impart the various aspects of statistical thinking upon his readers, the author uses the case studies of highway engineers versus Disney `Imagineers', epidemiologists versus credit modelers, insurers versus test developer (education), anti-doping agencies (sport) versus polygraph (lie detector), and the chances of jet crashes versus jackpots. Each case study - unlike Freakonomics - is backed up sufficiently by figures and facts. At times, I have to slow down my reading and think through the numbers, which I do greatly appreciate.

In practical term, how would reading "Numbers Rule Your World" help your work and life? For one, when you take in the news around you, you may wish to see things in a different perspective. Should you take in the reported figures on the papers as they are? Why are things or processes made that way? Some see an imminent risk, others do not.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More about contemporary events than statistics October 8, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This book is fairly well written and it presents stories about current events in which statistics play a major role. I purchased it, however, hoping to learn some statistics. I have read other math books about different concepts ranging from calculus to math history that were both entertaining and informative from a mathematical point of view (Derbyshire, Dunham, etc.). I have found this book to very lacking in this regard.

Statistics is my weakest area in math since I have never taken a course on the subject. What a student will learn in a first year statistics course, however, dwarfs what you will learn from this book. For instance, in the chapter regarding correlation versus causation, the author uses stories to highlight their differences, and explores how they are often mixed up. Having already known about this distinction, however, I picked up nothing mathematically from the chapter. Though there was no real insight into how these statistics are created.

If you know absolutely nothing about statistics, you can pick up a little from this book. For instance, in the same chapter mentioned above, the author examines how statisticians determined spinach to be the cause of the e coli outbreak from a couple of years back. It's very simple. 20% of people reported eating spinach on a regular basis, but 80% of people reported eating spinach who had been diagnosed with e coli. The chances of that happening are very slim, statistically speaking. The author does not present in any detail how this percentage is generated.

The book does shine in its reporting about current events, and that is its strongest point. It's also particularly striking how few numbers it actually uses. Apparently, this is a part of its success since so few people are actually numerate.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed
I read a lot of these types of books. I usually always enjoy them. I was definitely not impressed with this book. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Ronnie Adkins
3.0 out of 5 stars INstering but chapter are overly long
Good book but takes way to long to say what it has to say. You suspect it would have been better as a series of articles
Published 5 months ago by Dr. Paul A. Rhoads
3.0 out of 5 stars Numbers rule your world review
Pretty good book. I love books like these but I found this one a bit dry. Still enjoyable though, just some parts that weren't too interesting
Published 8 months ago by Rob
3.0 out of 5 stars Average
I must confess I had higher expectations from this book coming from the reviews and the title. I thought it should give more in depth information about different strategies on... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Niklas Andersson
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
Fun and interesting - an enjoyable way to learn about what I had thought would be a rather dry topic.
Published 11 months ago by Eric
5.0 out of 5 stars Summer math reading is no longer boring
There's a book called "Numbers Rule Your World".
After reading it, probabilities and statistics make you feel warm.
Interesting stories in an easy to read format. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Toys Samurai
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This book is extremely informative and interesting. I have never thought that numbers can rule my world until I read this book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ling Liang
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive
Explained clearly. But the use of the same cases and due to only scratching the surface of statistics and how numbers influence our lives, made me significantly disappointed.
Published 12 months ago by Jonas Dinesen
3.0 out of 5 stars It's interesting, but dry.
The case studies in the book are interesting, but it lacks the energy and enthusiasm that Freakonomics has on the topic. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Zach
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and Understandable
This book offers a very relatable approach to math- using common everyday examples and applying the principles of statistics. Read more
Published 22 months ago by MG
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More About the Author

Kaiser Fung is a professional statistician with over a decade of experience applying statistical methods to marketing and advertising businesses. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, in addition to degrees from Princeton and Cambridge Universities. He is Vice President of Business Intelligence and Analytics at Vimeo, a high-quality video hosting platform for creative people. He previously worked at Sirius XM Radio, American Express, [X+1], Exodus Communications, and Sonus Networks. His acclaimed blog, Junk Charts (http://junkcharts.typepad.com), pioneered the critical examination of data and graphics in the mass media. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University teaching practical statistics.

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