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The Perfect Bet: How Science and Maths are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling
The Perfect Bet: How Science and Maths are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling
by Adam Kucharski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Anecdotes, narrative, stories. Interesting if that is your thing but not for me., 2 Jun. 2016
From a talk at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, it appears the book is mostly anecdotal and contains very limited mathematical or scientific analysis. Anecdotes, narrative, stories. Interesting if that is your thing but not for me.


Probabilistic Graphical Models: A New Way of Thinking in Financial Modelling
Probabilistic Graphical Models: A New Way of Thinking in Financial Modelling
Price: £128.16

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and welcome counterpoint to the risk-neutral “orthodoxy” of current mathematical finance literature, 29 July 2015
Probabilistic Graphical Models by Alex Denev presents real world financial models embedding structural features so as to capture both normal and distressed capital markets.

Building on a graphical framework reflecting the causal links between the model variables, Denev crafts risk management tools where traditional risk methodologies must remain silent: reverse stress testing of financial institutions, multi-asset efficient frontier optimisation and robust macro hedging under tail risk scenarios, default clustering in corporate loans and mortgages, analysing contagion across financial networks, estimating the impact of unique constitutional events.

The models resort to graphical statistical techniques such as static (& dynamic) Bayesian nets to capture causal and temporal connections, Markovian random fields admitting simultaneous and two-way interactions, and directed cyclic graphs for more complicated risk factor topologies, complemented with parsimonious discrete or random probability laws, whilst taking care not to assume structural variety, randomness and irreducible economic uncertainty out of the picture.

Confrontation and calibration of real case studies, taking in not just financial time series and implied market data but richer input from macro-economic modelling and domain expertise, are advocated and illustrated throughout the work. Denev has written a fresh and welcome counterpoint to the risk-neutral “orthodoxy” of current mathematical finance literature.


House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent it from Happening Again
House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent it from Happening Again
by Atif Mian
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.50

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously flawed., 27 Oct. 2014
A kiss-and-tell book that lacks depth, lampoons alternative views instead of elaborating, and hasn't thought through its own proposed solution in the least. A narrative of one event: one theory explaining just one event, the US mortgage crisis. No international cross-examination, no historic review of previous crises.
Not a serious book really. I got it as a present from a broker and now don't know whether to hold or throw it.


Fearless Symmetry: Exposing the Hidden Patterns of Numbers
Fearless Symmetry: Exposing the Hidden Patterns of Numbers
by Avner Ash
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Comment on Princeton University Press - disgracefully bad print!, 25 Oct. 2013
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This is a comment on the "New Edition" by Princeton University Press. The print is truly rotten.

Entire chapters are missing, pp. 85-118, are missing from the copy I was sent. Looking at where the text stops and where it starts again, I think probably the entire printed batch, and not just my copy, is defective.

Shame on Princeton University Press to send out such a defective product. Apparently they use the shoddiest cheapest printer out there and have no quality control whatsoever in place.

Shame on Princeton University Press! Disgraceful! Moneygrabbers without the least ethical conviction! Amateurs!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2013 6:31 PM GMT


Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World's Greatest Minds For 358 Years
Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World's Greatest Minds For 358 Years
by Simon Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short on maths though well written, 21 Oct. 2013
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Simon Singh undoubtedly has a skilled pen, and as such I feel the book is worth reading.

However it could have delved deeper into some of the maths, such as the early discoveries of proofs of the equation for n=4 (no solutions - due to Fermat himself) and n=3 (no solutions either - Euler), which require high school mathematics mostly, and the proofs for many primes (due to Kummer, showing no solutions for many primes, and undecided for some primes).

The book also over-emphasizes the role of the non-entity Bertrand Russell in the development of maths, and over-stresses the role of Alan Turing (who had really nothing whatsoever to do with Fermat's theorem). A typical British belly-staring contest.

It is also terribly short on Fermat's other work on numbers, which would have been a nice historic perspective on this remarkable, although overrated mathematician, and on Pythagoros (for n=2), where it fails to list the well-known algorithm to recover ALL solutions. The book just indicates a few sample solutions for n=2 in an appendix, but by no means all. The algorithm to recover all solutions to n=2 is standard in all good books and again, requires high school mathematics only, so it could have been appended.

There is also a lot of story-telling on Evariste Galois, but just about nothing on his mathematics. Therefore there is really nothing of any consequence on Andrew Wiles' actual work.

I feel Simon Singh could have put more mathematics in notes or in Appendices and that would have been interesting and useful to the mathematically trained readers - which will make up the bulk of the readers of this sort of book. A missed opportunity here.

However, on the whole, Simon Singh writes well, and therefore 3 stars. Despite my comments, I intend to read Singh's book on cryptography, although without too much expectation on the mathematical front.


Elliptic Tales: Curves, Counting, and Number Theory
Elliptic Tales: Curves, Counting, and Number Theory
by Avner Ash
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.26

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing - book without a clear plan or logic, 14 Oct. 2013
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I want to be frank: this book is a failure.

I do have a extensive and solid mathematics background far beyond high school mathematics, and yet there are many parts in the book that simply do not tell anything, and do not achieve anything for the reader, even one at my level. Some of the reasoning is so stripped down and filled with comments like "You now need to know this but -heck- we cannot explain it here because it is too advanced and would take up too much space if we did". I question there is value in books that bluntly admit defeat and rolls on regardless to the next incomprehensible bare-back statement of defeat.

The book is about the Birch-Dyer conjecture. It sketches the relevance and the content of this conjecture only in the final few pages, and gives a minute (or to be blunt, not even) application of it. The book should have been planned far more extensively and rewritten from scratch.

I would have started out with a few straightforward number theoretic problems, rational or integer arithmetic problems, that are recognisable to any determined reader with high-school mathematics, which is their professed target public. With that context, I would have motivated why high-school mathematics has difficultly handling such problems, either in the positive way (finding the solution) or in the negative way (proving there are no integer or rational solutions, only irrational and/or complex solutions). After creating that context, I would have introduced a plan or a strategy to find out more, and motivate why the strategy stands a chance of developping some meaningful, interesting mathematics. And then go into elliptic curves, group theory, function theory. Without such a framework or a plan, the book just babbles on but doesn't achieve anything, even for the determined reader of more mathematical development of their target public.

It should also have many more examples and many more graphical representations ... it hardly has any! Just google Birch-Dyer conjecture, and you will get a graph on the internet summarising the original work in the 50'ies and 60'ies. Look at WikiPedia and at some of the freely available pdfs, this will show you more compelling examples and more graphical insight and feel for the issues around elliptic curves, Birch-Dyer and other conjectures, related problems in Diophantine equations ...

From the comments on their previous book, "Fearless Symmetry", which I have not purchased, I can glance that that book suffers from the same ills. This book is a failure. In my opinion, authors Ash and Gross should replan and rewrite their popular mathematics books, or bin their ambition to produce any. Surpring that a reputed editor such as Princeton University Press puts this on the market.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2014 1:44 AM BST


A Mathematician's Apology
A Mathematician's Apology
by G. H. Hardy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This print is for the visually impaired only!, 11 Oct. 2013
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Without the least warning I was sent a copy for the visually impaired. This is totally misguided. I am not visually impaired and do not want to be mis-sold a copy without my prior explicit warning and approval.

Very shady! Returned it at once and reclaimed my money.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2015 2:29 PM GMT


Science: A History 1543 - 2001
Science: A History 1543 - 2001
by John Gribbin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly researched, biased, trivia without compelling analysis, an author stretched on an ambition far beyond his skill-set, 11 Feb. 2013
John Gribbin is not a professional historian and it shows. John's approach is flawed. He has used only English originals and a few translations into English. His coverage in scientists and scientific discovery is Anglo-Saxon to the extreme. Virtually all of the institutions he consulted are English (Cavendish in Cambridge, the Royal Institution and the Royal Society in London, ...). Even then, we are paid in trivia, such as the estate acreage some scientist's grandfather held in Somerset, but short on explaining key scientific reasoning, method and breakthrough.

Foreign language errors abound: Ice Age was called "Eizeit" (Time of the Egg?) by Louis Agassiz (Eiszeit!), Leibniz is consistently misspelled Leibnitz [sic]. There are even more worrying errors in describing the science. One example is the confusion Gribbin apparently suffers from in describing Mendel's laws of genetics. The regressive gene may pop up in the second generation, not the first generation of descendants as Gribbin has it!

There is no connection to Greek, Roman or Islamic science, although a reference to atomism would certainly have been appropriate in the chapter on modern chemistry, Greek and Roman natural history, botany and pharmacology should have been referred to in the chapter on life, and astronomy and mathematics of the Middle East certainly played a role in early Renaissance science.

The graphical illustrations are few and far between, are not well-chosen and are stand-alone and not worked into the fabric of the text.

Why did modern science arise in Europe, starting with the Renaissance? The question is not raised, let stand alone tentatively answered. What did science do for Europe? Did it allow Europe to dominate the world for an extended period? How was science received in society and how did it affect it? These essential questions at the crossroads of science and history are not properly identified and elucidated.

In conclusion: it isn't clear what this book is supposed to achieve for the reader and why it was written? A mash of facts and trivia, very biased, not properly referenced, and often dubiously interpreted. It reads like a book written in anger, something Gribbin wanted to get off his chest, but hadn't planned, prepared, researched and organised properly. What John Gribbin produces is a science "Book for Boys", not a history of science.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2016 12:37 PM BST


Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
by Norman Davies
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a quick perusal, very interesting., 6 Dec. 2011
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While I still have to read the book at length, from a quick perusal, I was quite satisfied.

"Vanished Kingdoms", is a good anti-dote to reading history in reverse. It builds cultural sensitivity and profound skepticism to the heroic "Great Empire", "Great Men" school of history. It shows us lost threads which are somehow still working, in silence, in the undercurrent of society.


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