RANDOMNESS

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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