The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Paperback Vintage

By (author) Leonard Mlodinow

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  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 252 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 198mm x 23mm | 227g
  • Publication date: 5 May 2009
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0307275175
  • ISBN 13: 9780307275172
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 24,631

Product description

With the born storyteller's command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe. By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow's intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

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Author information

Leonard Mlodinow received his doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Max Planck Institute, and now teaches about randomness to future scientists at Caltech. Along the way he also wrote for the television series "MacGyver "and "Star Trek: The Next Generation. "His previous books include "Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace, Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, "and, with Stephen Hawking, "A Briefer History of Time. "He lives in South Pasadena, California. "From the Hardcover edition."

Review quote

"A wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives."--Stephen Hawking, author of" A Brief History of Time" ""The Drunkard's Walk "is a magnificent exploration of the role that chance plays in our lives. Often historical, occasionally hysterical, and consistently smart and funny, this book challenges everything we think we know about how the world works. The probability is high that you will be entertained and enlightened by this intelligent charmer."--Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of "Stumbling on Happiness ""Fast, chatty, very readable, and a fine introduction to ideas that everyone should know." --David Berlinski, author of "A Tour of the Calculus" "A primer on the science of probability."-"The Washington Post Book World" "Mlodinow writes in a breezy style, interspersing probabilistic mind-benders with portraits of theorists ...The result is a readable crash course in randomness."-"The New York Times Book Review" "A jaunty read worthy of any beach or airplane. . . . Mlodinow has an intimate perspective on randomness. . . . He draws direct links from the works of history's greatest minds to the deeds of today's not-so-great ones, explaining phenomena like the prosecutor's fallacy (which helped acquit O.J. Simpson) and the iPod shuffle function (eventually programmed not to be truly random, lest songs hit upon eerie playing streaks)."-"The Austin Chronicle" "Please read "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives" by Leonard Mlodinow, a history, explanation, and exaltation of probability theory. . . . Mlodinow . . . thinks in equations but explains in anecdote, simile, andoccasional bursts of neon. . . .The results are mind-bending."-"Fortune" "Challenges our intuitions about probability and explores how, by understanding randomness, we can better grasp our world."-"Seed Magazine" "[Mlodinow is] the perfect guy to reveal the ways unrelated elements can relate and connect."-"The Miami Herald " "From the Hardcover edition."

Table of contents

Prologue Chapter 1: Peering through the Eyepiece of Randomness The hidden role of chance . . . when human beings can be outperformed by a rat. Chapter 2: The Laws of Truths and Half-Truths The basic principles of probability and how they are abused . . . why a good story is often less likely to be true than a flimsy explanation. Chapter 3: Finding Your Way through a Space of Possibilities A framework for thinking about random situations . . . from a gambler in plague-ridden Italy to Let’s Make a Deal. Chapter 4: Tracking the Pathways to Success How to count the number of ways in which events can happen, and why it matters . . . the mathematical meaning of expectation. Chapter 5: The Dueling Laws of Large and Small Numbers The extent to which probabilities are reflected in the results we observe . . . Zeno’s paradox, the concept of limits, and beating the casino at roulette. Chapter 6: False Positives and Positive Fallacies How to adjust expectations in light of past events or new knowledge . . . mistakes in conditional probability from medical screening to the O. J. Simpson trial and the prosecutor’s fallacy. Chapter 7: Measurement and the Law of Errors The meaning and lack of meaning in measurements . . . the bell curve and wine ratings, political polls, grades, and the position of planets. Chapter 8: The Order in Chaos How large numbers can wash out the disorder of randomness . . . or why 200,000,000 drivers form a creature of habit. Chapter 9: Illusions of Patterns and Patterns of Illusion Why we are often fooled by the regularities in chance events . . . can a million consecutive zeroes or the success of Wall Street gurus be random? Chapter 10: The Drunkard’s Walk Why chance is a more fundamental conception than causality . . . Bruce Willis, Bill Gates, and the normal accident theory of life. Acknowledgments Notes Index