Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities

Author(s): Jeffrey S. Rosenthal


From terrorist attacks to big money jackpots, Struck by Lightning deconstructs the odds and oddities of chance, examining both the relevant and irreverent role of randomness in our everyday lives. Human beings have long been both fascinated and appalled by randomness. On the one hand, we love the thrill of a surprise party, the unpredictability of a budding romance, or the freedom of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We are inexplicably delighted by strange coincidences and striking similarities. But we also hate uncertainty's dark side. From cancer to SARS, diseases strike with no apparent pattern. Terrorists attack, airplanes crash, bridges collapse, and we never know if we'll be that one in a million statistic. We are all constantly faced with situations and choices that involve randomness and uncertainty. A basic understanding of the rules of probability theory, applied to real-life circumstances, can help us to make sense of these situations, to avoid unnecessary fear, to seize the opportunities that randomness presents to us, and to actually enjoy the uncertainties we face. The reality is that when it comes to randomness, you can run, but you can't hide.
So many aspects of our lives are governed by events that are simply not in our control. In this entertaining yet sophisticated look at the world of probabilities, author Jeffrey Rosenthal--an improbably talented math professor--explains the mechanics of randomness and teaches us how to develop an informed perspective on probability.


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Jeffrey S. Rosenthal

1 Front Matter; 2 1 Surrounded by Randomness: Probabilities Everywhere; 3 2 What Are the Odds of That? Coincidence and Surprise; 4 3 Laying Down the Law: Why Casinos Always Win; 5 4 Dealing the Cards: Bridge, Poker, and Blackjack; 6 5 Murder Most Foul: Measuring Trends; 7 6 Utility Functions:How to Make Decisions; 8 7 White Lab Coats: What Studies Do and Don't Show; 9 8 Ain't Gonna Happen: Very Low Probabilities; 10 9 Interlude: The Case of the Collapsing Casino; 11 10 Fifty-one Percent to Forty-nine Percent: The True Meaning of Polls; 12 11 Nineteen Times Out of Twenty: Margins of Error; 13 12 Randomness to the Rescue: When Uncertainty Is Your Friend; 14 13 Evolution, Genes, and Viruses:Randomness in Biology; 15 14 That Wily Monty Hall:Finding Probabilities from Clues; 16 15 Spam,Spam,Probability, and Spam: Blocking Unwanted E-mail; 17 16 Ignorance,Chaos,and Quantum Mechanics:Causes of Randomness; 18 17 Final Exam: Do You Have Probability Perspective?; 19 Acknowledgments; 20 About the Author; 21 Index

General Fields

  • : 9780309097345
  • : National Academies Press
  • : National Academies Press
  • : 0.318
  • : March 2006
  • : November 2005
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Jeffrey S. Rosenthal
  • : Paperback
  • : English
  • : 270
  • : illustrations