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The Maths of Life and Death av Kit Yates
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The Maths of Life and Death (urspr publ 2019; utgåvan 2019)

av Kit Yates (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
634319,090 (4.08)Ingen/inga
"We are all doing math all the time, from the way we communicate with each other to the way we travel, from how we work to how we relax. Many of us are aware of this. But few of us really appreciate the full power of math - the extent to which its influence is not only in every office and every home, but also in every courtroom and hospital ward. In this eye-opening and extraordinary book, Kit Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application - or misapplication - of mathematics has played a critical role: patients crippled by faulty genes and entrepreneurs bankrupted by faulty algorithms; innocent victims of miscarriages of justice and the unwitting victims of software glitches. We follow stories of investors who have lost fortunes and parents who have lost children, all because of mathematical misunderstandings. Along the way, Yates arms us with simple mathematical rules and tools that can help us make better decisions in our increasingly quantitative society"--… (mer)
Medlem:Sindi
Titel:The Maths of Life and Death
Författare:Kit Yates (Författare)
Info:Quercus (2019), 256 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek, Önskelista
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Taggar:Ingen/inga

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The Math of Life and Death: 7 Mathematical Principles That Shape Our Lives av Kit Yates (2019)

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Visar 4 av 4
One of the best mathematical books I have ever read. Teaching the real effect of mathematics ( mostly statistics and probability theory) with real-world stories made it fun to read. How a simple idea like dependent probability which we learn using dice examples in our school, can have a huge impact on the conviction in a murder case was eye-opening.

The book primarily talks about mathematical ideas like exponential growth, conditional probabilities, median vs mean, etc in a real-world context. As application of mathematics is exploding using data science and Machine learning, understanding these nuances of their application is very important.

Chapter 4 which talks about media misuse of statistics is highly relevant to today's fake news era.

The last chapter about mathematical epidemiology which concerns mathematical modeling of epidemics is one of the real needs of today's COVID-19 pandemic. It clearly shows why quarantine and lockdowns are important and gives a cautionary tale if it's not followed how fast an epidemic can spread.

The books leave us with single an important message

"Never take mathematical results as absolute truth. Always question the source of data, assumptions behind the model, and their biases.". Taking this attitude towards the mathematics as yet another tool to model the complex real-world makes it more potent rather than blind usage. ( )
1 rösta madhukaraphatak | Aug 12, 2020 |
Many maths disciplines are extremely useful. Trigonometry, algebra, Euclidian geometry & others are all useful & should be used in general life e.g. when building something. Additionally, as mentioned in the article, being able to understand & calculate compound interest is useful for just about everyone. Another example - calculating if discount percentages are genuine or not. The list is endless. If you want to write computer programs, get the best out of Excel and the like, you need to understand maths. The bottom line - all maths is good. All maths should be compulsory in all grades in all states.

We seem to clash where the older generation don't think young people can perform maths because they can't use a slide rule like they did (or speak Latin) compared to today's industry leaders and government who have coerced the education system to put unfair expectations on all students to be "coding experts" when they leave school or feel like you have failed.

Maths, like most subjects, needs to be offered with several different levels of engagement (definitely more than 2) with students depending on their interests, career goals, course requirements and abilities. Maybe a total new course called Life Studies where all practical examples of life's choices are taught, not just maths, to all students regardless.

Number one lesson, basic contract law, compound interest and mortgages. The most costly mistake somebody can make which is easily examinable with a calculator before signing anything. A calculator only provides an answer to the data you input (just likes slide rule or log tables). If you don't understand maths & how to construct a formular, understand exponential growth/decay reasoning, or understand that -ve X -ve gives a +ve result etc, your poor old calculator can't possibly give you correct answers.

Being good at Portuguese or being literate in your native language allows you to communicate and understand simpler ideas. Being good at Maths and being numerate allows you to communicate and understand more complex ideas. Being good at both Portuguese and Maths means there is nothing you cannot learn if you put your mind to it. Being good at both allows you to be educated properly and makes it possible to learn anything you want to. Both are the foundation of all other knowledge. Not learning Maths means you will not have as many choices in your life that you would otherwise have.

In our society, it seems that literacy is valued, as it should be, but numeracy, not so much. It seems that some highly literate people take pride in their innumeracy. They shouldn't because there are some ideas that they will never be able to communicate or understand. However, while it takes some literacy to become numerate and good at Maths, any mathematician or scientist benefits from being more literate because it makes them better at communicating what they want to say to normal people who do not necessarily have the background knowledge to understand what they are saying. Because, in the end, both literacy and numeracy are all about better communication, not less, an increasingly necessary condition to confront and make decisions in the modern world.

Education is not and should not be defined by whether or not the actual things being taught are of immediate practical use. The concepts are of wide ranging indirect use - for example, being literate in maths and science means that you are less likely to be one of the vast army of fools who denies climate change or the efficacy of vaccines - and can look at a 'opinion poll' and know whether what is being claimed by politicians or in the media is accurate (hint: it is invariably not). And it is fundamentally important to the proper functioning of our democracy that people are able to tell when they are being sold a bunch of lies and spin - you only have to look around you to see that.

I can see a lot of validity in the general premises made by the author. However, a number of the assumptions and generalizations made need to be challenged. Firstly, many of the statistics and probability skills referred to are currently taught at a senior high school level in the course undertaken by twice as many students as those who take higher level studies in maths. So it is being done and by a significant majority (in Portugal at least). Things like Differential Equations are only covered in the higher level subjects, and often by those interested in studying sciences of engineering. Junior levels look at a range of the many areas within Mathematics, some of which they will most likely never use, but then how is that different from any other subject? I don't write text analysis, describe coastal geomorphology, interpret poems or discuss the influences of the surrealist art movement on a daily basis, even though I did at school and have done at times during my life. Everyone benefits from learning new skills and encountering different ways of thinking. All said and done, a life skills numeracy program is a great idea.

I just wish Yates had come from another field, Theoretical Physics for instance. The examples and instances therein didn’t fully resonate. ( )
  antao | Aug 9, 2020 |
This book explains how Mathematics is everywhere around us. I truly enjoy books that talk about how the concepts I 'studied' in school/college are actually used in real life. This is definitely one such book.

I found one of the simplest explanation of Bayes' Theorem in this book. Other concepts discussed include Mark and recapture, regressing to mean and logistic growth are just as easy to understand.

Improper usage of statistics was an eye-opener and I could relate it to many other advertisements I see in media. Kudos to the author.

One great book about Mathematics without any formula (not that I mind them!). ( )
  nmarun | Jun 15, 2020 |
My problem with books on mathematics is never remembering the formulas, even from one chapter to the next. OK, and being bored with them is a factor too. Kit Yates solved these problems by not using any formulas, or even much math in his delightful (when not frightening) The Math of Life and Death. His secret is really simple: he tells stories. The result is always engaging, often infuriating and sometimes horrifying. We defy the math at our peril.

Using examples from the news, such as epidemics or murder investigations, Yates shows what underlies the events – the basic numbers that anyone can see do or do not add up.

The whole strength of The Math of Life and Death is the power of true events. Yates recognizes their value, and provides the background facts that fit with numbers that prove a point. In the hot new service of gene sequencing, he shows clearly how our assumption about identifying people by DNA samples can go wrong – badly – enough to incarcerate the wrong person. In his own case, 23andMe gave him a death sentence through a wrong interpretation of his genes. He proved it (to his great relief) with other such services and went back to show just how the numbers can lead analysis astray. Sloppy math is hard to prove, but can ruin lives.

He shows that something as unmathematical as algae needs an understanding of math. An algal bloom doubles in size every day, until it covers a lake - in 30 days. If you see the lake is half covered, how long do you think it will take for it to be covered completely? Most would calculate numerous days, based on when the algae first appeared and had reached the halfway point, but the correct answer is one more day. Mistakes like this lead planes to crash, which Yates also shows in painful detail.

Doctors are forever misinterpreting test results, giving patients false death sentences or false reassurances. Yates gives the example of breast cancer tests, by which doctors seem to predict nine out of every two cases of breast cancer in women. The numbers are pretty stark. With false positives from tests, 981 women out of a random 10,000 will be told that they have breast cancer. But of those, only 90 will actually have it. Ninety out of ten thousand (ie. nine per thousand) is not the pandemic plague that should cause panicked fear in women, but that’s how doctors present it when they are surveyed. Given multiple choice questions, doctors fare far worse than if they had chosen random answers. They are prejudiced in the false direction. They have the facts and the numbers wrong. The result is needless surgery, needless chemotherapy, and much pointless suffering.

There is a horrifying chapter on legal ignorance as well. So-called expert witnesses bamboozle judges, juries and opposing lawyers with mumbo-jumbo that no one challenges, because they don’t understand what was said. They just pick out a major conclusion from what they heard, and accept it as true and significant. The result is wrongful convictions. In the major case cited, a young mother went to prison for murdering her first two children, because an expert incorrectly claimed the chances of two children from the same family dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was one in 73 million. (He made up the number himself.) That’s all the jury needed to know. It didn’t matter that the expert was wrong about the odds, or even that the children didn’t really die of SIDS. The number was so overwhelming, the decision was easy to make: she had to be guilty as charged. In upholding the conviction, the appeals court said no one would be fooled by such a wild claim.

This is the same principle that guides media claims, and why so few trust the media any more. Shopping for statistics and angles, reporters hone in on some startling number, and taking it out of context, draw conclusions that it doesn’t merit, or maybe worse, just leaving it there to fester in the imagination of people with no other facts to weigh. Absent those facts, the population divides into believers and non-believers, ever more extreme in their positions. It is no wonder that a Boris Johnson can lie about the massive amounts of cash sent to the European Union, and even when the lie is pointed out, it continues to be the foundation for leaving the union. The result has been utter chaos in a farcical government. So while it’s critical to have the numbers behind the claims, few do. Worse, fewer can master them, and a select group will manipulate them to their own advantage.

Yates also tackles algorithms, epidemics, and antivaxxers. The antivaxxers rely on a single, tiny, invalid and misinterpreted study by a (since) defrocked doctor, where he claimed to show that vaccinations cause autism. They don’t, as Yates relates clearly and concisely. Nonetheless, the news traveled from Britain the USA, where it has become gospel to millions who have no need of the facts. They accept the headline as all they need to know. The result is a resurgence of diseases long thought banished, with thousands suffering needlessly. Perversely, parents even mail licked lollipops to each other, so more children can be infected. They believe the false headline, and are ignorant of the death and disfiguration rates from these so-called rites of passage diseases. It is craziness squared, because the numbers were cooked and won out over the facts.

The Math of Life and Death is an endlessly diverting, pleasing, engaging and horrifying look at how lives are affected by the math. It is math in very human terms, and Yates excels at making it plain. And you don’t even have to do the math to see it.

David Wineberg ( )
1 rösta DavidWineberg | Sep 20, 2019 |
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"We are all doing math all the time, from the way we communicate with each other to the way we travel, from how we work to how we relax. Many of us are aware of this. But few of us really appreciate the full power of math - the extent to which its influence is not only in every office and every home, but also in every courtroom and hospital ward. In this eye-opening and extraordinary book, Kit Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application - or misapplication - of mathematics has played a critical role: patients crippled by faulty genes and entrepreneurs bankrupted by faulty algorithms; innocent victims of miscarriages of justice and the unwitting victims of software glitches. We follow stories of investors who have lost fortunes and parents who have lost children, all because of mathematical misunderstandings. Along the way, Yates arms us with simple mathematical rules and tools that can help us make better decisions in our increasingly quantitative society"--

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