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Customer Review

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Journalistic hypes and some patently false claims, August 3, 2007
This review is from: A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Nature (Hardcover)
I am an academic economist who knows something about game theory, so when I bought this book I did not hope to learn anything new but just to be entertained by an "illuminating" author during my leisure hours. I was disappointed to the point of anger.

This book is basically a journalist's report based on interviews with a few (probably half a dozen) individuals as the pages are filled with quotes from several academics in good standing. I think it would have been better to simply present many illuminating quotes from these individuals without inserting additional insights that the author gleaned from them, because many of the author's insertions were at best misleading and at worst patently false.

Just for an example, the author keeps insisting that payoff numbers in games are "money" as economists are interested in monetary matters. It might probably be true that von Neumann preferred interpreting payoffs of a game as money, but most practicing economists and game theorists certaintly do not do that.

An annoying repeated phrase is that "xxx told me (in an exclusive interview) that..." where xxx is one of the half dozen individuals mentioned above. Most of what xxx told the author must be correct, relevant and have some meaning but these are simply taken out of context by bits and spread throughout the text.

Also the basic hype about game theory's possibility to be a Theory of Everything seems to come out of (as the author admits) one person's recent writings at Bell Labs. The idea itself presented as such sounds simply outrageous (even to an academic economist like myself) but rather a surpring fact is that game theory's origins are in fact related to such an outrageous idea from physicists, mathematicians and "cyberneticians", one story of which is told in Mirowski, Machine Dreams. Mirowski's book has its own faults, and is a lot more heavy going (with some 500 + pages with small fonts and requiring a lot of knowledge), but at least it shows seriousness and a lot of research the author took to it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 22, 2012 11:25:13 AM PST
i am a theoretical physicist who knows a great deal about statistical mechanics since it my research field and it obvious that the author knows nothing about the subject. his promotion of Wolpert's idea that a mathematical link between game theory and statistical mechanics is of any significance is utter nonsense. moreover, as a libertarian formally educated in the Austrian school of economics, it is obvious that the author knows very little about free market economics. the junk science spouted by the author should not have surprised me as it was apparent in his previous book "The Bit and the Pendulum". the author is one of the very worst science popularizers currently at work he apparently interviews a few people and then
either buys into their self-aggrandizing claims about the significance of their work or he does not understand what they are telling him and he concocts a mish mosh out of his misunderstanding and/or ignorance. if you want to understand anything about the scientific topics this author has written about, your best approach would be to avoid anything this author has written and instead look for other books written by far better professional science popularizers (there are a few of them). better still, read a popularization written by a practicing professional scientist - even if the writing is less transparent, what knowledge you do gain will be better than anything this author is likely to tell you. it is actually better to be ignorant then to be so utterly misinformed.
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