The Drunkard's Walk

The Drunkard's Walk : How Randomness Rules Our Lives

3.92 (19,137 ratings by Goodreads)
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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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Product details

  • Paperback | 252 pages
  • 132 x 203 x 20mm | 295g
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 0307275175
  • 9780307275172
  • 92,016

Table of contents


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.

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Review quote

"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 wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives."

--Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time

"[Mlodinow] thinks in equations but explains in anecdote, simile, and occasional bursts of neon. . . . The results are mind-bending."


"Even if you begin The Drunkard's Walk as a skeptic, by the time you reach the final pages, you will gain an understanding-if not acceptance-of the intuitively improbable ways that probability biases the outcomes of life's uncertainties."


"Delightfully entertaining."

--Scientific American

"A magnificent exploration of the role that chance plays in our lives. The probability is high that you will be entertained and enlightened by this intelligent charmer."

--Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

"Mlodinow is the perfect guy to reveal the ways unrelated elements can relate and connect."

--The Miami Herald

"A primer on the science of probability."

--The Washington Post Book World

"Challenges our intuitions about probability and explores how, by understanding randomness, we can better grasp our world."

--Seed Magazine

"Mlodinow has an intimate perspective on randomness."

--The Austin Chronicle
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About Leonard Mlodinow

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.
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Rating details

19,137 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 30% (5,708)
4 40% (7,717)
3 23% (4,462)
2 5% (986)
1 1% (264)
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