Top critical review
27 people found this helpful
More about contemporary events than statistics
on October 8, 2010
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. If you are a little on the numerate side, and want to learn about how statistics are actually computed, look elsewhere. If you want to see how statistics relates to current events in general, consider this book.