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Showing 1-5 of 5 reviews(1 star). See all 69 reviews
on 29 September 2016
I shouldn't have read it. But I read on, and after the acknowledgments I gave up. It leaves the following impressions
- author did not seem to take the trouble to provide facts (numbers) aside from bad quotes from books he has read, better to just read the books referenced where the wording surely is clearer.
- author either does not understand conditional probability himself, or, if he does, he does a terrible job of explaining. I have a maths university degree in probability but most of the time I had to re-read sentences what the author exactly meant.
- The points the author brought to the table, for example the fact the signals were not interpreted before the pearl harbor attack - would be served with what the noise was, then.
- The story of the old lady and the renter was new, but to try to use conditional probability and how it was applied, bad idea. The correct underlying theory is survival rate (hazard rate etc), so please say what you mean. An old lady having proven that she survived 80 years has a higher chance of reaching 110 than anyone younger. Would be better to provide both mortality rates. Same for some courtroom examples mentioned.
- it is endearing to see how the author struggles time and time again to describe in words what the unnamed formula represents, and how he fails, because takes so many words that the goal is overshot. Conditional probability is counter-intuitive, and it simply, ehm, takes time to understand.
- the best test was to let 2 students hand in an identical paper and voila, they get graded differently.
- book has no actionable advice how to see Randomness _when_ it tries to rule our life. Or how to apply at stock market.
- it could be read as a highschool essay, and now wonder why the author corrected the paper of his son and got a C (=fail), oh i get that now ;-)
- the book starts and ends with some story about concentration camps, why do Jews always need to bring that up. Non jews never feel the need to do that.

Finally let me save you the trouble of reading with this:

1. Life is random. Random how, is unknown. Your achievements are partly based on luck, and how partly is also unknown. So get out more often.
2. By some Brownian motion there is a chance you land on top, so do it more often.
3. do not apply large sample probabilities on your one-time event. AKA just buy that lottery ticket!
4. Every graph or scoring shown by journalists or teachers is far less precise than they think. Ignore both.

There! Saves you reading 250 pages.
7 people found this helpful
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on 8 February 2015
Size Uk 13 way too small, nor like 11.5 (or US13). It's not clear to me why to insist on wrong advertising would it be possible to include the size in cm?
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on 21 September 2010
I received this book as a gift, and judging from the positive review was looking forward to reading it. I have a mathematical background so unlike the other reviewers that found things difficult when the maths is raised this is usually no problem.

However, it didn't take long, in fact page 23 when I found that MR Mlodinow cannot explain the simplest concept of probability. Reading his explanation of the first "law of probability" as he puts it is garbled and needlessly complicated couched with many logical negations as to boggle the mind. I tried it out on my wife (non maths person) who said she didn't understand what he was saying either. He is trying to say that the probability of two independent events both occurring is calculated by multiplying the probability of the two independent events occurring, which must give a probability less than either of the two independent event occurring on their own as a probability measure is expressed as fraction. But he doesn't explain the basic concept of probability at all, rather he gives ranking of probable events with a rank of 1 as the most probable and a higher number the least probable. This is not as natural way of explaining probability either to a betting person or to a maths person. Consequently he ties himself, and you, into knots when trying to explain his reasoning. His failing to explain this adequately means you, the reader, are sunk from the start.

In addition on page 26 he decides to tells us that that the philosophical mathematical approach of: axiom, proof, theorem is deficient and Kurt Godel says so (apparently) and that "most mathematics, he demonstrated, must be inconsistent or else contain proofs that cannot be proved.". This is a gross misrepresentation of his Incompleteness Theorem as to be a criminal act! Quite what this contributes to his topic of randomness is a mystery.

I then threw the book in the bin, if he cannot explain simple concepts simply, and then go on to misrepresent at least one other peoples argument by page 26 that I know about, then I am not likely to learn anything and have no confidence in the authenticity of the rest of his book.

My recommendation is read something else. Anything.
20 people found this helpful
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on 28 October 2010
This is what happens when a rather boring specialist writes a book and then the publisher's marketing department give it a 'sexy' title to ensure that punters buy it. A disappointment to read.
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on 21 March 2011
I purchased this for a relaxing read for a weekend train journey, and within a few pages I felt sick. After talking about the Holocaust and thanking Hitler for his Existence, my gut was unsettled but I carried on reading. Then came the example of training Israeli fighter pilots to be more successful (I guess killing more innocent Palestinian families then?) this seems to be a book with a strong subtext about various human rights violations and promoting the Jewish religion as it is about science.

So after almost vomiting in disgust, I deleted this from my Kindle. Didn't get past the first 10 pages.

As a general 'popular science' book it's pretty average, could have written something more interesting myself. Get the Black Swan instead, or books by that author, much better!
10 people found this helpful
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