How Not to Be Wrong

The Power of Mathematical Thinking

Ellenberg, Jordan

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
How Not to Be Wrong
"In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us that math isn't confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do--the whole world is shot through with it. Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It's a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does "public opinion" really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer? How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician's method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman--minus the jargon. Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, New York :, The Penguin Press,, 2014
ISBN: 9781594205224
Branch Call Number: 510 E452h 2014
Characteristics: 468 pages ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

Accessible but by no means dumbed-down, engaging, and very entertaining. (Larry's pick)

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Nov 06, 2014
  • Ivan W. Taylor rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a very good book but is sometimes deep in its discussion of mathematics. I enjoyed it a lot but would hesitate to recommend it to my friends unless they were mathematicians, However, as a mathematician myself I liked the book because I still learned some things which is uncommon from a book for laypeople.

Sep 06, 2014
  • writermala rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Prof. Jordan Ellenberg has written a book which shows the stark beauty of Mathematics. He uses examples to show that pure Math can be applied to real life situations to make complex and often paradoxical situations simple. He mentions that non-linear thinking really explains a lot of anomalies and says succinctly that "which way you should go depends on where you already are."
Some of his examples like the Baltimore Stockbroker are just fascinating. All in all an eminently readable book; however, the Math in it is a little tougher than one is led to believe:-)

Aug 31, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

3.5 Stars...

University of Wisconsin professor and veritable numbers genius, Jordan Ellenberg, asserts that math “is like an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” We can’t all be mathematicians he writes, but we certainly ought to try. Ellenberg's (sometimes too) demanding but thought-provoking book demonstrates how to help our brains use mathematical principles as a guide to accurate thinking about the world.

"How Not to Be Wrong" contains five sections, each featuring a math concept that can apply to real life: linearity, inference, expectation, regression, and existence. In linearity, Ellenberg counters our instinctive belief that life moves in straight lines. Will raising tax rates lead to higher or lower tax revenues? It depends. Inference teases out unexpected insights: during the controversial 2009 Iranian election, why did the number seven show up twice as often as would be expected in a fair vote?

Ellenberg also shows that a knack for asking the right questions can avoid mistakes; it is all too easy to be arithmetically correct but mathematically wrong. He warns that many scientific research studies may prove worthless because of the method used to calculate the reliability of the results. He explains why red-hot hitters inevitably cool off and why hugely successful businesses always lose their edge over time.

A challenging but welcome companion to anyone interested in the art of numbers.

Jul 19, 2014
  • StarGladiator rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Great book. For some really pleasurable cognition, read Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan [the section where he disputes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle] and compare to what Prof. Ellenberg writes on regression to the mean and note how one plays off the other, and bolsters each other.


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