"Our sense of wonder grows exponentially; the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery."

-- E.O. Wilson

Web scienceontap.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"The Drunkard's Walk"

Randomness in our lives...

I generally like Leonard Mlodinow's writing (previous volumes include "Feynman's Rainbow" and "Euclid's Window"), and his 2008 offering, "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives," is no exception. I read it over a year ago, but it is newly out in paperback and making the bookstore rounds again, so worth a mention.

Several books in recent years, like this one, have made the point that despite our intuitive notions of order and scientific predictability in our lives, randomness actually plays a far more significant role. Mlodinow, a former Cal Tech physicist/mathematician is skilled at explaining probability and statistics to a lay audience in an engaging, even humorous manner. The author shows how our basic instinct to perceive patterns and order in the world around us often leads us astray, while a more clear understanding of statistics will often account for seeming anomalies. He covers most of the popular and entertaining topics in this arena, as well as some less-widely covered ones, with clear explanations that can be readily followed by even the non-mathematically-inclined. Again, I won't do a full review here, but pass along an "A-" rating, and refer readers to these other reviews on the Web:

NY Times review
The Guardian review

No comments: