9780374535001

The Improbability Principle Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780374535001

  • ISBN10:

    0374535000

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2/17/2015
  • Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Summary

In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand argues that extraordinarily rare events are anything but. In fact, they're commonplace. Not only that, we should all expect to experience a miracle roughly once every month.
But Hand is no believer in superstitions, prophecies, or the paranormal. His definition of "miracle" is thoroughly rational. No mystical or supernatural explanation is necessary to understand why someone is lucky enough to win the lottery twice, or is destined to be hit by lightning three times and still survive. All we need, Hand argues, is a firm grounding in a powerful set of laws: the laws of inevitability, of truly large numbers, of selection, of the probability lever, and of near enough.
Together, these constitute Hand's groundbreaking Improbability Principle. And together, they explain why we should not be so surprised to bump into a friend in a foreign country, or to come across the same unfamiliar word four times in one day. Hand wrestles with seemingly less explicable questions as well: what the Bible and Shakespeare have in common, why financial crashes are par for the course, and why lightning does strike the same place (and the same person) twice. Along the way, he teaches us how to use the Improbability Principle in our own lives—including how to cash in at a casino and how to recognize when a medicine is truly effective.
An irresistible adventure into the laws behind "chance" moments and a trusty guide for understanding the world and universe we live in, The Improbability Principle will transform how you think about serendipity and luck, whether it's in the world of business and finance or you're merely sitting in your backyard, tossing a ball into the air and wondering where it will land.

Author Biography

David J. Hand is an emeritus professor of mathematics and a senior research investigator at Imperial College. He is the former president of the Royal Statistical Society and the chief scientific adviser to Winton Capital Management, an algorithmic-trading hedge fund. He has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Salon, and Forbes, and on NPR’s Weekend Edition, the BBC, and elsewhere. He is the author of seven books, including The Information Generation and Statistics: A Very Short Introduction, and has published more than three hundred scientific papers. He lives in London, England.

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