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** Ghana RPCV Dr. Deborah Bennett is author of "Randomness"**

Ghana RPCV Dr. Deborah Bennett is author of "Randomness"

"Chance governs all," said Milton, but he was writing about hell, not statistical probability. In the modern world, we assume that Milton's hell is everywhere--that is, that fate is best described in terms of statistics, odds, risks, and randomness. But most people, even many scientists, find probability difficult to understand and often counter to common sense. Mathematician Deborah Bennett looks at the history of statistics, games of chance and the casting of lots, the "Monty Hall" problem, and sources of random numbers. "Every day we can see evidence that the human species does not yet have a very highly developed probabilistic sense." With more books like Bennett's, we may in time become better at it--chances are. --Mary Ellen Curtin

From Library Journal

The big philosophical questions are, "Do unpredictable events really occur by chance or is chance a measure of our ignorance?" and, "Does it matter which it is?" The practical question is, "How do you use a computer to systematically produce `random' numbers, for use in certain applications?" In this easy-to-read exposition, Bennett (mathematics, Jersey City State Coll.) touches on these questions as well as some history of society's interpretation of chance and its relationship to religious... read more

Book Description

From the ancients' first readings of the innards of birds to your neighbor's last bout with the state lottery, humankind has put itself into the hands of chance. In our modern world, life itself may be at stake when probability comes into play-in the chance of a false negative in a medical test, in the reliability of DNA findings as legal evidence, or in the likelihood of passing on a deadly congenital disease-yet even today, few people understand the odds. This book is aimed at the trouble with trying to learn about probability. A story of the misconceptions and difficulties civilization overcame in progressing toward probabilistic thinking, Randomness is also a skillful account of what makes the science of probability so daunting in our own time. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Probability from a popular and historical perspective, July 6, 2003

Reviewer: il_bruce (see more about me) from Dallas, TX USA

Like some previous reviewers, I read "Randomness" because of references in Nicholas Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness." Although Taleb focused on the last chapter, "Paradoxes in Probability," the bulk of Bennett's book is a popular history and development of probability theory from scientific, mathematical and philosophical perspectives.

Although not as full of puzzles like the "Monte Hall" problem as expected, the unintuitive nature of determining probabilities is illustrated quite well by going over the intellectual development of the field. If you want an understanding of probability and why it is often so hard, "Randomness" is a great place to start. --This text refers to the Paperback edition

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Clear and Useful, February 11, 2001

Reviewer: unraveler (see more about me) from CA United States

This book is a mixture of mathematical history and basic statistics and probability with examples of their use. Bennett writes lucidly and succinctly. I would have liked to see some topics, such as paradoxes of probability (e.g. the Simpson's paradox) explained in greater detail. Sometimes the book tackles a topic very briefly and then drops it rather abruptly. As a result, it may be difficult to grasp the importance of a topic and to see the connection between topics. All in all, however, the book is a very good reference manual for a beginner. This is essentially a handy long encyclopedia article on a fascinating and important subject.

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Sad ending, February 29, 2004

Reviewer: mrbigbeast (see more about me) from Killingworth, CT USA

The best I can say for this book is that the first nine chapters may provide some historical notes to inspire further research. But chapter 10, in which "paradoxes" of probability are discussed, proves the author is as clueless about the fundamentals of probability as she claims the average reader is. Apparently ignorant that the probability of an existing condition can only be 0% or 100%, the author introduces banal "paradoxes" in which more or less knowledge of circumstances supposedly changes the probability that an existing condition is true. Worse still, she describes one of these paradoxes poorly, appearing to change the status of conditions from pre-existing to future-unknown during the exposition of the problem (the three prisoners paradox). For anyone who cares to stop and think, these pseudo-paradoxes are no more difficult to debunk than Zeno's - you really don't need advanced math training to get it. But the author promotes, using logical fallacy, a string of wrong conclusions and answers. Considering the author's stated credits include Assistant Professor Of Mathematics, this is a truly sad ending. If chapter 10 is so massively wrong, can you believe anything in chapters 1 through 9? You tell me the odds. --This text refers to the Paperback edition

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Good intuitions, September 28, 2003

Reviewer: ramig18 (see more about me) from UK

I liked this book. It is simple, clear, easy to read and teaches you a great deal. --This text refers to the Paperback edition

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

A little bit disappointed, March 22, 2003

Reviewer: knightofGod (see more about me) from Hong Kong

I must confess that I read this book with the intention of sharpening my trading skill. I was attracted by the example quoted from this book in a trading book "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life -- by Nassim Nicholas Taleb". Definitely I had made a wrong inference.

To me, this book is quite academic. Out of the ten chapters I only found the first and the tenth interesting, with both comprised mainly of life examples and paradoxes. Unless you are really interested in the topic "Probability" in an academic or mathematics sense, this might not be suitable for you. --This text refers to the Paperback edition

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Brilliant !!!, December 3, 2001

Reviewer: Franco (see more about me) from Paris

"Human species does not have a very highly developed probabilistic sense": a thought that has been haunting me for years... This small and beautiful book gives the reader a fantastic insight into the history of randomness, the philosophy, and some of the biggest mistakes humans tend to make. After reading the book and somebody tells you that you have a 95% chance of being affected by illness XYZ, you will remember having read RANDOMNESS... --This text refers to the Paperback edition

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