- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 7, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691174164
- ISBN-13: 978-0691174167
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ten Great Ideas about Chance
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"A historical and philosophical tour of major insights in the development of probability theory."--James Ryerson, The New York Times Book Review
"A volume that should be on every scientist’s reading list."--Barb Kiser, Nature
"Mathematically rigorous, yet also reasonably accessible; informative, yet fun and entertaining to read. Both students and faculty should find reading this to be a rewarding experience."--MAA Reviews
"The audience is quite specific, but for them it will be a gem. . . . I would recommend this to any student studying or having studied anything statistics related at university."--Jonathan Shock, Mathemafrica
"A very enriching journey. Your vision will be broadened assimilating all these issues and solutions as well as open problems from the early history of probability, game theory, financial markets, politics, thermodynamics, quantum theory and much much more."--Adhemar Bultheel, European Mathematical Society
"A great book for anyone who wants to understand some of the central tenets of probability, how they were discovered, and how they can be tamed in our day-to-day lives."--ZME Science
From the Back Cover
"In this attractively written book, which is rigorous yet informal, Persi Diaconis and Brian Skyrms dispel the confusion about chance and randomness. They range from coin tosses to particle physics and show how chance and probability baffled the best minds for centuries. I cannot imagine a more accessible account of these deep and difficult ideas."--Jon Elster, Columbia University and Collège de France
"There is something fundamentally paradoxical about probability theory, as a mathematical language for saying precisely what we do not know. In this book, an eminent philosopher and mathematician guide us through the resolution of these paradoxes, to offer a deeper understanding of how we can analyze problems of uncertainty in the world."--Roger Myerson, University of Chicago
"One should add an eleventh great idea to Ten Great Ideas about Chance: namely, for probabilist, statistician, and magician Persi Diaconis and philosopher of science Brian Skyrms to write a book about the subject! This fascinating book mingles the foundations of probability with history and philosophy, covering topics that include the uncertain and elusive notion of inference, and bringing forth a broad and powerful vision of concepts that should appeal to both specialists and general science readers."--Christian P. Robert, Université Paris-Dauphine and University of Warwick
"This wonderful book looks at both the nature of probability and the history of thinking on the subject, following a path that goes from coin-flipping machines to quantum physics via psychology and behavioral economics. It will fascinate general readers and stimulate constructive reflection in scientists who use probability. Outstanding!"--Stephen Schaefer, London Business School
"This compelling book is a welcome contribution to the slim body of recent works that popularize chance. It invites readers to the examples with ease, and it raises far-reaching, thought-provoking questions. I learned a huge amount of useful new information about probability theory and statistics from this book."--Joseph Mazur, author of Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence
"Clear and precise, and at times pleasantly conversational, Ten Great Ideas about Chance does an excellent job of bringing together a broad array of ideas about probability, statistics, and the general problem of induction."--Steven N. Evans, University of California, Berkeley
Top customer reviews
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For starters, I’m a big fan of Persi Diaconis. Not only is he Greek, not only did he teach Math at my alma mater, but he’s a proper, self-taught genius. And he’s modest. Not once in the book does he mention that he’s the man who proved mathematically that a deck is random once you’ve shuffled seven times.
Also, I’m a big big sucker for Probability, which I studied a fair bit both as an undergrad and as a graduate student. Indeed, if you go to amazon.co.uk you’ll see I have the definitive review (with errata and corrections to the homework problem solutions) for Capinski and Kopp’s “Measure, Integral and Probability.”
And I’m an even bigger sucker for popular science and popular math. I devour popular science books whole, most recently Roger Penrose’s “Faith, Fashion and Fantasy” (no idea what that was all about, but it blew me away anyway) and Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons in Physics,” which fooled me into thinking I understand General Relativity.
On pages 115-116 the authors even dedicate a chapter to the work of a former role model of mine, my high school’s 1984 Valedictorian, John Ioannides! I still remember sitting in the audience as he was delivering his speech. It felt great to read about him in a book by Persi Diaconis.
So I’m devastated to report that this is an underwhelming book.
Don’t get me wrong:
• the topics are expertly selected
• the style is friendly
• a story is told
• there is a beginning and an end
• you are left in no doubt of the beauty of the subject
• the references are all there if you want to study the topics on your own
• the authors’ love of Math is evident
However, and this is an enormous problem, if there is an idea you did not understand before, you are extremely unlikely to get to terms with it by dint of having read this book. Indeed, there’s stuff I have in my life been an expert on that I read here and I was not able to recall it.
The chapters are invariably a mix of
1. a trivial example that does not penetrate enough the intended topic because it contains too much of the familiar and too little of the topic that’s being introduced
2. references to original texts that are nineteenth century translations into stilted English from eighteenth century originals written in French or German or Latin
3. statements of complex results that would take fifty pages to arrive at if the proofs were shown
So what I re-lived by reading this book is my Freshman Year nightmare Math class where three times a week I’d follow the first five minutes of the lecture only to subsequently find myself furiously copying from the board so I can read my lecture notes later at home and try to make sense of them.
And I got to remember the worst part of that package, which was that sometimes the teacher would make a mistake on the board, which of course would cost me hours of private desperation as I tried to see how that was compatible with everything else I’d copied down.
Not saying there are mistakes in the main body of the book, but perhaps there are, because there’s at least a couple of absolute HOWLERS in the “probability tutorial” in the back.
I’ll tell you one thing: the poor souls at Stanford who took this class as a distributional requirement learned absolutely nothing. That I promise you.
Bottom line, after reading Rovelli I feel comfortable lecturing my mom on General Relativity, a topic I know nothing about. After reading this book I’m afraid to discuss Probability even with my colleagues at the startup I’m running. Dunno, perhaps I’m merely “confused about higher things.”
All that said, this was the guided tour to the brain of a genius. Three-and-a-half stars from me ;-)
To a non-mathematician this was a particularly fascinating topic to consider. The book brings to life many ‘everyday’ things, such as chance and probability – something that one takes for granted without knowing the back story or deeper implication. For a more involved specialist, they may form an entirely different connection, since the book manages to be attractive to both audience groups through its informed, accessible and engaging writing style. A few myths and misunderstandings may even be corrected along the way.
This can be one of those books that you hadn’t considered you needed, but you will be glad you have read. It certainly can be a book that is hard to put down. If you are not particularly au fait with mathematics, some of the book may appear unfathomable, but fortunately the accompanying text can come to your aid and you can always skip a bit of the ‘deep maths stuff’ without affecting your enjoyment of the story-at-hand.
Christmas is coming. This may deserve a space in a Christmas sack or two!