- Paperback: 252 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307275175
- ISBN-13: 978-0307275172
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 450 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives Paperback – May 5, 2009
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“Mlodinow writes in a breezy style, interspersing probabilistic mind-benders with portraits of theorists.... The result is a readable crash course in randomness.”—The New York Times Book Review“A wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives.”—Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time"[Mlodinow] thinks in equations but explains in anecdote, simile, and occasional bursts of neon. . . . The results are mind-bending."—Fortune"Even if you begin The Drunkard's Walk as a skeptic, by the time you reach the final pages, you will gain an understanding-if not acceptance-of the intuitively improbable ways that probability biases the outcomes of life's uncertainties."—Barron's“Delightfully entertaining.”—Scientific American “A magnificent exploration of the role that chance plays in our lives. The probability is high that you will be entertained and enlightened by this intelligent charmer.” —Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness“Mlodinow is the perfect guy to reveal the ways unrelated elements can relate and connect.”—The Miami Herald“A primer on the science of probability.”—The Washington Post Book World“Challenges our intuitions about probability and explores how, by understanding randomness, we can better grasp our world.” —Seed Magazine“Mlodinow has an intimate perspective on randomness.”—The Austin Chronicle
About the Author
Leonard Mlodinow received his doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Max Planck Institute, and now teaches about randomness to future scientists at Caltech. Along the way he also wrote for the television series MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation. His previous books include Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace, Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, and, with Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History of Time. He lives in South Pasadena, California.
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I found chapter 9 to be particularly enlightening. Randomness is clearly a part of our lives and often is the source of major world events and trends. Most of us know this, but as the author points out, we try to organize random events so that they make sense and point to a direction. He uses examples of the stock market and the success/failure of new movies and books. There are countless people making a nice living trying to convince us that they see a pattern when in fact there is none. There are many more "hmmph, I didn't know that" points in the book, but If this is your only learning, it is a worthwhile use of your time and money.
The writer explains concepts clearly, and explores the role (and misunderstandings of) probably in Hollywood, the board room, the courts, and why the Greek's, despite their immense mathematical contributions had no understanding – and a great skepticism of – probability.
This book contains just the right balance of history, philosophy, mathematics, popular culture (Monty Hall problem, etc), and it’s accessible to all. If you’re on the fence about it, look at the Table of Contents for some inspiration.
Leonard Mlodinow explores the predictability of randomness and its impact on the movie industry, college football, and so much more. Success operates on a continuum and regression towards the mean calls for periods of both extreme failure and success. Mlodinow tells us that our inability to understand this continuum results in college coaches fired for less successful seasons and famous movie producers given the boot when their good luck suddenly runs dry. It was discovered later on that first-in-commands have little to do with the success of their respective fields. Our biases and misconceptions can rule our lives unless we account for them. This book address questions like: how can something so obvious be wrong?
Mlodinow explains how our misinterpretation of probabilities have greatly tainted our legal system. Simple mathematical mistakes are “enough to sober up anyone drunk on feelings of cultural superiority”. These mistakes are enough to bring ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ back into question. OJ Simpson’s trial and the Pearl Harbor attacks are re-calculated to show how previous mistakes in logic can seem so obvious in reverse. The clever selection of gripping anecdotes will keep me coming back to this book. Mlodinow proves that it’s possible to win the lottery if we gather enough people together to outsmart the system. He uncovers why the most wealthy people in the world are no smarter than you and me, and he does it with great wit and humor. Overall, he urges us to judge each other by our qualities, and not the results we obtain. This book opened my eyes to the randomness working in my life and all around me. Are my most successful moments pure serendipity? Mlodinow succeeds in taking the ancient logic of philosophers and basic knowledge in mathematics and uses it to disprove most everything I trusted to be grounded in strong rationale. From social physics to prosecutor's fallacy, it’s hard to see anything the way I used to.
If this is how you feel, this book will explain why you are right, and if it is not how you feel, it might well change your mind. And even if it doesn't, it is an engrossing read, because it makes it clear how randomness, uncertainty and chance play a greater role in our lives than is generally recognized.