Mathematician John Allen Paulos bravely bridges the scientific and literary cultures with this amusing, enlightening look at numbers and stories. If you think those two things go together like a "horse and a paperclip," as Allen wryly observes, you only have to look at phenomena like the Bible codes, the stock market's ups and downs, and the Clinton sex scandal to begin to understand the hidden bonds between them. Put simply, mathematics can describe everything that happens, and everything that happens contextualizes mathematics. In demonstrating this, Paulos continues the noble numeracy crusade he began with A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Innumeracy. Perhaps the most compelling thought experiments in the book are those of the statistics of stereotyping and race relations. Paulos shows, mathematically, that minority status makes achieving equality extraordinarily difficult.
If you want to keep hold of your comfortable worldview, don't read Once Upon a Number. But you'll be missing out on an unforgettable reminder of what chance, coincidence, and odds really mean, along with several valuable life lessons that may help you understand lost socks, racism, and mistaken identity. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"This book is not concerned with the history of great theorems, but with bridging, or at least clarifying, some of the gaps between formal mathematics and its applications." This statement of purpose, more clearly than the book's title, best sums up Paulos's goals in his latest work. Paulos (Innumeracy) insists that statistics cannot be disconnected from the stories?or narrative contexts?that attach them to the complexities of the world. He demonstrates this idea through examples including recent controversies over birth order and the so-called Bible codes. Before we can agree on the meaning of statistics about birth order, he contends, we must agree on what the terms involved mean. Is an only child the same as a first-born? What about a baby born to a large family but then adopted by a childless couple? Paulos turns to the Bible codes to demonstrate that it is the stories we tell about seemingly improbable coincidences, rather than the mathematics involved, that make them compelling. Not only are most seeming coincidences of "stunning insignificance," he explains, but in the case of textual analysis, they are easy to generate. Paulos shows this by easily locating the names "Bill" and "Monica" in the U.S. Constitution. The author may occasionally frustrate readers with an indirect approach, and some sections read more like trenchant observations than argument, but his sense of humor is always quite winning. Paulos's insightful and amusing observations on how the truths discovered through mathematics should be applied to our everyday lives will appeal to an audience beyond math and science enthusiasts. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book is a great read for people with a more analytical brain, who like to think or see in the perspective of numbers, statistics, probability, etc. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ali Upton
The author has a pompous, i know it all and have seen it all attitude that he carries throughout the entire book. Read morePublished 15 months ago by A. Cook
One upon a number is a valuable resource that brings understanding to the proliferation of everyday common discourse, especially that which fuses narrative and statistics to give... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Kindle Customer
I read this book as my book project for my maths class. It is a really thoughtful book. John Paulos uses a lot of details in different perspectives to explain some life issues. Read morePublished on September 26, 2012 by shirley yuan
This book is not as engaging as his previous offerings "Innumeracy" and "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. Read morePublished on September 13, 2011 by Charles Ashbacher
I've always marveled at the imagination of authors who write fiction. Having only really been good in Science and Mathematics in school, the literary world seemed incredible. Read morePublished on January 1, 2008 by Mathew Titus
I found this book disappointing. While some of the examples and anecdotes are interesting, and everything is very well written, I didn't really understand what the author's point... Read morePublished on April 24, 2002
The author deals in an original way with the difficult nexus between statistics and stories, between alpha- and betascience, without favouring one of them, and indeed arguing that... Read morePublished on February 11, 2002 by Freek Van de Velde
While Paulos undertakes a very ambitious and intriguing topic in this book, his efforts do not go far at all ... Read morePublished on October 20, 1999