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Probabilities and statistics dominate our lives, yet few of us really understand them; here’s an attempt to shed some light. Bennett (Mathematics/Jersey City State Coll.) uses practical examples to convey the history and nature of her subject. Ancient societies used dice or bones not only for gambling but to decide matters of life and death—on the theory that a random mechanism made the divine will known, without human bias. Old Testament Hebrews drew lots to divide an inheritance—hence the term “lot” for a parcel of land. The I Ching is a more elaborate method of using randomizers (tossed coins or counted yarrow stalks) to solicit divine guidance. A more scientific approach to probability began with the Renaissance; Galileo’s writings about dice show awareness of the concept of equal probability. Bennett spends some time demonstrating the need for careful enumeration of all the possible outcomes in estimating probability. By the 18th century, the concept of random error led to scientists adopting the mean of a series of measurements as the best approach to accuracy. Laplace was the first to formulate the famous bell curve to describe the likely distribution of random events, a model rapidly adopted throughout the sciences. As the science of statistics matured, random numbers were generated as a tool for analyzing the randomness of natural phenomena. Eventually these investigations, often based on “randomly” chosen data such as the heights of convicts, yielded such statistical tools as the chi-square relationship, which often showed that the data were not as random as originally believed. It was not until the 20th century that the notion that yet undiscovered laws would allow exact prediction of all natural phenomena was abandoned by science and true randomness embraced—most strikingly in the form of quantum mechanics and chaos theory. A clear and detailed examination of the role of pure chance, with fascinating historical asides. (32 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-674-10745-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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