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Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence
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Basic Books 2016
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Description
A mathematical guide to understanding why life can seem to be one big coincidence-and why the odds of just about everything are better than we would think.
What are the chances? This is the question we ask ourselves when we encounter the strangest and most seemingly impossible coincidences, like the woman who won the lottery four times or the fact that Lincoln's dreams foreshadowed his own assassination. But, when we look at coincidences mathematically, the odds are a lot better than any of us would have thought.
In Fluke, mathematician Joseph Mazur takes a second look at the seemingly improbable, sharing with us an entertaining guide to the most surprising moments in our lives. He takes us on a tour of the mathematical concepts of probability, such as the law of large numbers and the birthday paradox, and combines these concepts with lively anecdotes of flukes from around the world. How do you explain finding your college copy of Moby Dick in a used bookstore on the Seine on your first visit to Paris? How can a jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DNA found at the scene of a heinous crime did not get there by some fluke? Should we be surprised if strangers named Maria and Francisco, seeking each other in a hotel lobby, accidentally meet the wrong Francisco and the wrong Maria, another pair of strangers also looking for each other? As Mazur reveals, if there is any likelihood that something could happen, no matter how small, it is bound to happen to someone at some time.
In Fluke, Mazur offers us proof of the inevitability of the sublime and the unexpected. He has written a book that will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered how all of the tiny decisions that happen in our lives add up to improbable wholes. A must-read for math enthusiasts and storytellers alike, Fluke helps us to understand the true nature of chance.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/29/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780465040001
ASIN:
B017QL8WDW
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Joseph Mazur. (2016). Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Joseph Mazur. 2016. Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Joseph Mazur, Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence. Basic Books, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Joseph Mazur. Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence. Basic Books, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Jun 12, 2018 16:03:57
Date Updated:
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        Joseph Mazur is an emeritus professor of mathematics at Marlboro College, and the author of four other popular mathematics books, the most recent of which is the highly acclaimed Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers. Among his many honors is a Guggenheim fellowship. Mazur lives with his wife, Jennifer, in Marlboro, Vermont.

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shortDescription
A mathematical guide to understanding why life can seem to be one big coincidence-and why the odds of just about everything are better than we would think.
What are the chances? This is the question we ask ourselves when we encounter the strangest and most seemingly impossible coincidences, like the woman who won the lottery four times or the fact that Lincoln's dreams foreshadowed his own assassination. But, when we look at coincidences mathematically, the odds are a lot better than any of us would have thought.
In Fluke, mathematician Joseph Mazur takes a second look at the seemingly improbable, sharing with us an entertaining guide to the most surprising moments in our lives. He takes us on a tour of the mathematical concepts of probability, such as the law of large numbers and the birthday paradox, and combines these concepts with lively anecdotes of flukes from around the world. How do you explain finding your college copy of Moby Dick in a used...
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title
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fullDescription
A mathematical guide to understanding why life can seem to be one big coincidence-and why the odds of just about everything are better than we would think.
What are the chances? This is the question we ask ourselves when we encounter the strangest and most seemingly impossible coincidences, like the woman who won the lottery four times or the fact that Lincoln's dreams foreshadowed his own assassination. But, when we look at coincidences mathematically, the odds are a lot better than any of us would have thought.
In Fluke, mathematician Joseph Mazur takes a second look at the seemingly improbable, sharing with us an entertaining guide to the most surprising moments in our lives. He takes us on a tour of the mathematical concepts of probability, such as the law of large numbers and the birthday paradox, and combines these concepts with lively anecdotes of flukes from around the world. How do you explain finding your college copy of Moby Dick in a used bookstore on the Seine on your first visit to Paris? How can a jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DNA found at the scene of a heinous crime did not get there by some fluke? Should we be surprised if strangers named Maria and Francisco, seeking each other in a hotel lobby, accidentally meet the wrong Francisco and the wrong Maria, another pair of strangers also looking for each other? As Mazur reveals, if there is any likelihood that something could happen, no matter how small, it is bound to happen to someone at some time.
In Fluke, Mazur offers us proof of the inevitability of the sublime and the unexpected. He has written a book that will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered how all of the tiny decisions that happen in our lives add up to improbable wholes. A must-read for math enthusiasts and storytellers alike, Fluke helps us to understand the true nature of chance.
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      • premium: True
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        February 22, 2016
        Mazur (Euclid in the Rainforest), professor emeritus of mathematics at Marlboro College, succinctly tackles the math behind phenomena of chance and happenstance. He begins with a rundown of generic categories of coincidences—such as lost and found objects, precisely timed encounters, dreams that come true, and gambling luck or misfortune—illustrating each with surprising examples. Over the remainder of the book Mazur analyses the likelihood of these and other moments of chance, including the birthday problem—how many people must be in a room to have a 50% chance that two share a birthday—and the monkey question, which addresses whether a monkey randomly hitting keys would type all of Shakespeare’s works if given enough time. He explains the tools required for such analyses—the theories of large numbers, weak numbers, probability, and frequency distribution—in accessible language, complemented by sophisticated equations and graphics. Mazur also explores larger issues affected by events with small probabilities, among them risk in financial markets and the application of probability theory to DNA evidence. His discussion of DNA evidence is provocative, raising questions about the process. Mazur’s thoughtful tour reveals the explanatory power of probability theory in the larger world.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 1, 2016
        A mathematics romp through amazing coincidences that proves, naturally, that they are not amazing at all. Mazur (Emeritus, Mathematics/Marlboro Coll.; Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers, 2014, etc.) emphasizes two axioms: first, anything that's possible is guaranteed to happen (a monkey hammering at a keyboard will eventually type a line from Shakespeare); second, math itself explains many amazing coincidences. If 23 people gather, what are the odds that two share the same birth date? The answer: better than 50/50. Mazur begins with 10 categories of coincidences that can be explained mathematically (e.g., a woman who won multimillion-dollar lottery games four times)--or not. Historians dutifully write that Abraham Lincoln dreamed of his own death, but so do we all. Everyone has nightmares. There follows 70 pages on the actual mathematics of these experiences, explained clearly by the author. Science writers traditionally assure readers that no equations will disturb their text, but Mazur does not go along with that approach. While he does not go beyond high school algebra, readers who pay attention will learn the basics of probability, bell curves, standard deviations, hidden variables, and how to calculate the odds of a monkey typing Shakespeare. They are more likely to enjoy discussions of the reality behind his 10 categories and then scratch their heads over absorbing if only distantly relevant chapters that cast a critical eye on DNA evidence ("the general public mistakenly presumes that DNA evidence is the absolute proof of guilt or innocence, at least if it is not compromised by contamination"), extrasensory perception, stock market manipulations, and scientific breakthroughs. The best update of Darrell Huff's classic How to Lie with Statistics (1954) remains Gary Smith's Standard Deviations (2014), but readers willing to work will find that Mazur acquits himself quite well.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

subtitle
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popularity
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