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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (1995)

av John Allen Paulos

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
9022017,544 (3.56)23
In this lively volume, mathematician John Allen Paulos employs his singular wit to guide us through an unlikely mathematical jungle--the pages of the daily newspaper. From the Senate and sex to celebrities and cults, Paulos takes stories that may not seem to involve math at all and demonstrates how mathematical naïveté can put readers at a distinct disadvantage. Whether he's using chaos theory to puncture economic and environmental predictions, applying logic to clarify the hazards of spin doctoring and news compression, or employing arithmetic and common sense to give us a novel perspective on greed and relationships, Paulos never fails to entertain and enlighten.… (mer)
  1. 01
    Gödel, Escher, Bach : ett evigt gyllene band av Douglas R. Hofstadter (heidialice)
    heidialice: GEB is a thousand times as intense, but if you enjoyed the parts about self-referentiality it's worth a skim. Conversely, if GEB is just too much, Paulos' concise introduction to the theme is very accessible.
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» Se även 23 omnämnanden

engelska (18)  italienska (1)  spanska (1)  Alla språk (20)
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This book is a collection of small and intentionally somewhat disconnected articles. They are organized into several main themes:

* Politics, Economics, and the Nation
* Local, Business, and Social Issues
* Lifestyle, Spin, and Soft News
* Science, Medicine, and the Environment
* Food, Book Review, Sports, Obituaries

it's a bit too discursive. I found myself reading bits of the articles after a while, just like flipping channels.

However, I have a more detailed review.

* Politics, Economics, and the Nation - The intro to this was wierd and depressing, because it was about Bosnia, but also about cake cutting so that every body gets a fair portion. The algorithm for that was complicated, and ought to result in a very ragged cake. But it should work, if the cake is infinitely divisible.

- Lani "Quota Queen" Guinier
This was puzzling, because I wasn't paying much attention to politics back then and had never heard of this person. However, it introduced the Bahnzhof power index, which I had never heard of before, even though I do pay attention to voting systems, but which was somewhat mathematically interesting. It also discusses "cumulative voting", which really seems like a generalization of "approval voting". It seems like the Bahnzhof power index was invented by Bahnzhof in order to prove that some of the counties or districts in Orange County, NY had no voting power. I wonder if that index is still used in legal suits to demonstrate that a voting system is somehow unfair. There was such a suit in Lowell, MA recently, which caused some adjustment to the voting system for city council members.

So, after reading a single essay and thinking about it a bit, and scanning a few more, I decided that this was the kind of book that should be returned to the library now, and maybe checked out again some other time, and that's what I did.
  themulhern | Dec 14, 2019 |
La premisa del libro es muy buena: los muchos errores matemáticos (inocentes o no) que se leen en las noticias de cualquier periódico, desde los titulares nacionales e internacionales hasta las secciones de ocio y sociedad.

Al contrario de lo que puede sugerir el título, esto no es un curso de matemáticas ni un libro pensado para el especialista con un posgrado. Es para ese lector o lectora común y corriente que abre las hojas para informarse del mundo en el que vive. Es para detectar cómo los números no son siempre lo que parecen y que un reportero descuidado (o malintencionado) puede faltar al deber de informar la verdad a su público.

Recomiendo ampliamente este libro, incluso a 20 años de su publicación, porque ahora más que nunca necesitamos ser buenos consumidores de datos y noticias, necesitamos saber analizar no sólo el contenido de una nota sino cómo fue creada. La alfabetización matemática es una habilidad cada vez más necesaria en un mundo con cada vez más acceso a datos, y no tenerla crea una brecha casi tan importante como la brecha económica. Este libro ayuda un poco a entrenar esa habilidad.

Lo único malo de esta edición es que la traducción deja algo que desear; intenta copiar frase por frase al original y en ocasiones hace que el texto sea poco claro, un pecado capital para textos de divulgación científica ( )
  andycyca | Aug 6, 2019 |
Sadly dated; what we need now is A Mathematician Surfs the Web. Paulos is reasonably non-doctrinaire, with examples that should annoy or outrage any political persuasion – although he’s careful not to say he actually advocates some of the positions that are statistically justifiable (example: an estimate that if all smokers switched to chewing tobacco, there would be a 98% reduction in tobacco-related deaths). His chapter on non-linear dynamics and chaos is directed at Reagonomics – it’s ironic that the substitution of a few words would make it equally applicable to climate change. (A later chapter on the logistic formula for animal population growth is also applicable to climate change as well as endangered species, demonstrating that apparently minor changes in input parameters can make dramatic differences in outcome).

Overall, though, it’s a collection of interesting essays of variable quality rather than a coherent book. Most of the mathematical discussions are too brief; a reader might remember the point made but not the method. I suppose it’s a variant on the claim that “The correct answer to Creationism is a geology textbook”; the correct answer to most media innumeracy is not a clever little selection of essays but a statistics textbook.
( )
1 rösta setnahkt | Dec 2, 2017 |
Paulos is a witty mathematician and makes excellent points in his analyses of newspapers focusing on the numbers, statistics, ignorance and misrepresentations. Arranged as newspaper content, with politics and current topics first, followed by local news, lifestyles, science, and sports, he writes short "articles" with composite made up headlines to draw you in; not any different than any newspaper. Published in 1995, the topics and references are dated, but the message is not.

I would be curious to ask him what he thinks of Internet news and the Fox News Network. He had faith then that a newspaper was of more value than a television newscast, but that pre-dated the tabloid TV of Murdoch's empire and the deceptive pseudo-statistics they use, so I'm sure he's even more convinced of his original premise. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Signed Copy
  quadraticman | Apr 27, 2017 |
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I read the news today, Oh Boy. -- John Lennon
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In this lively volume, mathematician John Allen Paulos employs his singular wit to guide us through an unlikely mathematical jungle--the pages of the daily newspaper. From the Senate and sex to celebrities and cults, Paulos takes stories that may not seem to involve math at all and demonstrates how mathematical naïveté can put readers at a distinct disadvantage. Whether he's using chaos theory to puncture economic and environmental predictions, applying logic to clarify the hazards of spin doctoring and news compression, or employing arithmetic and common sense to give us a novel perspective on greed and relationships, Paulos never fails to entertain and enlighten.

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