If you know the difference between lies, damned lies and statistics, give a copy of A K Dewdney's 200% of Nothing
to your friends to get them up to speed. If you're not up to speed yourself, consider this funny, engaging little book a crash course in numeracy, the mathematical equivalent of literacy. Opening with two chapters on the importance of this dying talent, Dewdney (formerly Scientific American's "Mathematical Recreations" writer) spooks the reader with real examples of government agencies, media outlets and--of course--car salesmen deceiving their audiences with beguiling mathematical sleights-of-hand.
It's all too easy for us to think we're immune to such tactics until we actually see them laid out for us in prose as clear and disarming as Dewdney's. From there he delves more deeply into practical examples of particular problems that often catch us unaware. Gambling, advertisements using bizarre-but-normal-looking charts and bad science all come in for thorough examinations, and the reader is amazed and occasionally angered at the shamelessness of the purveyors of misleading statistics.
The book closes with two chapters designed to make readers "mathematically streetwise", with exercises to help you grasp ratios, very large and small numbers and probabilities more intuitively. 200% of Nothing inspires learning and makes it interesting--if you want to see through the fog of numbers surrounding politicians and advertisements, there's no better place to start. --Rob Lightner
From the Inside Flap
200% of Nothing In this delightfully witty excursion into the world of mathematical manipulation, popular columnist and math whiz A. K. Dewdney unveils the vast array of ways in which numbers are twisted and statistics are turned in order to fool the unsuspecting public. From the case of the "Incredible Expanding Toyota" to that of the "National Security Googol," Dewdney exposes the slick tricks and subtle schemes used by advertisers, politicians, special interest lobbyists, stockbrokers, car dealers, and just about anybody who tries to impress us with numbers, charts, and graphs. At turns funny and infuriating, Two Hundred Percent of Nothing is packed with real–life examples from the worlds of advertising, government, business, and media that demonstrate all types of math abuses. Dewdney identifies them by name, from "number bludgeoning" to "occult sampling" and shows us exactly how they play upon our innumeracythe common inability to understand the rules of percentages, ratios, statistics, and basic math logic. You may want to buy the halogen light bulbs that an ad claims will save you 200% on energy costs, until Dewdney points out that its impossible to save any more than 100% of something. And you may never want to play the lottery again when you learn that your chances of winning are mathematically equivalent whether you play or not. Why should we be skeptical of 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed? Whats the bull behind the bull market? Do statistics really prove its safer to fly than drive across country? When would financing a car through a dealer be a bad deal? With the wry wit and professorial wisdom that made his math column a favorite among Scientific American readers for nearly a decade, Dewdney gives the answers. Furthermore, he explains the basic math behind the answers so that the next time you see mathematical chicanery, youll recognize it. Though you may be shocked at how pervasive math abuse is, you may be even more astonished to discover how rapidly you can learn the simple tricks and basic logic of defending yourself against it. As Dewdney writes in his Introduction: "It is far easier to calculate a percentage than it is to drive a car." Math abusers are every–where, but with Dewdneys shrewd pointers, you can easily catch them at their own game.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.