A mathematically supported, engaging read on how probabilities are frequently used, misunderstood and creatively applied to...

HOW TO EXPLAIN ALMOST EVERYTHING

THE POWER OF PROBABILITY IN EVERYDAY LIFE

Hitlin, who earned a doctorate degree in political science from Vanderbilt University, explores the application of probability theory to everyday scenarios including finance, gaming and law.

Hitlin isn’t coy about his target audience for this work. This isn’t “a rigorous logical proof of probability theory nor is it a guide to calculating complicated probability problems,” he writes. “It is designed for people who are open to learning about ways to make more successful decisions in their everyday lives from a book written in non-mathematical language.” Hitlin maintains this clear, direct style and unpretentious graphical display throughout the text, interspersing quotes from notable figures such as Albert Einstein and Nils Bohr. The book is quite text-heavy, but charts and mathematical tables are sometimes balanced with friendly stock photos of dice and roulette tables. What distinguishes the work is how precisely it links seemingly dry mathematical formulas to real-life examples. In particular, the “Faulty Legal Reasoning” chapter lays out examples of court cases; in one, a defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to jail based on the likelihood of a rare malady, sudden infant death syndrome, naturally occurring and killing two children in a given span of time. Hitlin manages to insert enough drama into the text to make it an intriguing read while simultaneously carefully laying out the mathematical evidence. For instance, the likelihood of a baby contracting SIDS was one in 8,500; in “reasoning used by the pediatrician, and accepted by the judge, the lawyers, and the jury,” the chances of two SIDS death in the same family was therefore one in 8,500 times one in 8,500. In this case, however, “subsequent statistical analysis demonstrated that after a SIDS death has occurred in a family, the chance of another SIDS death in the same family increases ten-fold,” Hitlin writes. Likewise, his studies of how colleges create formulas that allow them to admit more applicants than they actually intend to enroll is a fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered how to strike the right balance in circumstances that are inherently unknowable. Each scenario, particularly the detailed examples, will help readers understand the scope and complexity of the world in which we live.

A mathematically supported, engaging read on how probabilities are frequently used, misunderstood and creatively applied to shape our daily lives.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: B00R1D2ENA

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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