How Not to Be Wrong

May 26, 2015

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

by Jordan Ellenberg

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: 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 hidden structures underneath the 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 revelations behind all of these questions and many more using the mathematician's method of analyzing life and exposing the insights of the academic community to the layman -- minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a cast range of time and space, from everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, articial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia's views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can't figure out about you, and the existence of God.

 

Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from late theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is "an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength." 

 

- adapted and revised from publisher

 

For the record, I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking book titles to Amazon. If you click a book title or cover and buy a book (you don't pay extra) I earn a small commission.

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