The Theory That Would Not Die

  • by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
  • Narrated by Laural Merlington
  • 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Bayes' rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.
In the first-ever account of Bayes' rule for general readers and listeners, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores this controversial theorem and the human obsessions surrounding it. She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. She reveals why respected statisticians rendered it professionally taboo for 150 years - at the same time that practitioners relied on it to solve crises involving great uncertainty and scanty information, even breaking Germany's Enigma code during World War II, and explains how the advent of off-the-shelf computer technology in the 1980s proved to be a game-changer. Today, Bayes' rule is used everywhere from DNA decoding to Homeland Security.
Drawing on primary source material and interviews with statisticians and other scientists, The Theory That Would Not Die is the riveting account of how a seemingly simple theorem ignited one of the greatest controversies of all time.

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What the Critics Say

"If you are not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be." (New York Times Book Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

New developments in statistics breathlessly told

It's a pretty good history of Bayesian statistic, giving a good overview of the reasons why people are excited about it. Perhaps overly enthusiastic, both exaggerating the differences to other types of statistical reasoning and never making it entirely clear what distinguishes Bayesian from frequentist approaches, nor indeed what statistical reasoning is about to begin with.
The narrator is not the worst I have heard, and generally did a reasonable job of making an understandably modulated aural text. But as is often the case with scientific topics, no thought was given to finding a reader who is actually familiar with the vocabulary or the people. Thus, "theorist" consistently became "theororist", John von Neumann became "Newman", and Jerzy Neyman became "Neiman". Among others. It was still eminently listenable, but irritating.
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- David Steinsaltz

Book Details

  • Release Date: 30-03-2012
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio