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Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do Hardcover – February 15, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0071626538 ISBN-10: 0071626530 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (February 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071626530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071626538
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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 (, 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.

Customer Reviews

The book makes a very interesting read.
John Chancellor
This book offers a very relatable approach to math- using common everyday examples and applying the principles of statistics.
Frankly, this book does a better job of making sense of statistics than all those classes.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Keith E. Webb VINE VOICE on 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 By Wilfrid K. F. Wong on 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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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Publicagent on 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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