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By Jan W. H. Schnupp on 02-06-14
The lighter and the darker sides of probability
Mathematical subjects can be awfully dry, but in this book the author weaves a highly accessible, enjoyable and enlightening tapestry of the history of mathematical thinking on luck and chance. Thought provoking examples of the counter-intuitive nature of randomness and chance are interwoven with little vignettes of the sometimes surprising episodes of the lives of pioneering probability theorists. Take for example Cardano, who invented probability theory to beat others at dice games in order to pay his way through renaissance medical school. He rose to become chair of the medical school, only to be betrayed to the inquisition by his own incestuous and cruel children who were maneuvering for "cushy" jobs as full time torturers and henchmen. What are the odds of that? Or, indeed, what are the odds that a mother will kill two of her children? Or that OJ Simpson got away with murder? You don't have to die to find out.