David J. Hand: The Improbability Principle



Eader why we should actually expect seemingly unlikely events Ie winning the lottery twice in one day to occur For someone like myself who cringes at the words statistics or math I was amazed at how simple and clear Hand was in leading a reader like myself through mathematical and statistical explanations If only he had been my graduate school stats professor In addition to the amazing stories that Hand has included and his clarity in breaking down the probability principles that explain them Hand is a surprisingly funny writer I caught myself laughing out loud many times while reading the book much to the irritation of the people seated near me Statistician able to clearly teach sophisticated concepts interesting funny Prior to completing Hand s book I would have guessed that was an impossible combinationNot everyone is able to pick up stats or math theories so easily Here Hand provides a book accessible to a wide audience that debunks magic luck psychic abilities divine intervention or any other number of concepts that signify our inherently poor ability to apply science and reason to everyday events People in 2014 walk around drunk on the power of hindsight bias assuming they are far intellectually advanced than their ancestors But the belief in supernatural causes for events that can be explained by science is ust as rampant as ever To some in the stats or math fields this book may seem underwhelming ust as I am not knocked off my seat by psychology books written for the general public And yet a well researched well written intro level book that debunks common myths using psychology is something I would be the first to applaud It doesn t appear that Hand s book was intended to be marketed to statisticians though being human one can presume these individuals are as susceptible to being tricked by some strands of the Improbability Principle as the rest of us Therefore reviewers who give the book a low rating based simply on the fact that they were already familiar with the theories prior to reading it might want to reconsider Irm 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 uestions 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 plac.

One confession before I start the review I used to hate statistics as a subject in school and college with a madness that only I was aware of Simply put it was beyond me That s it When I saw this book in the list by Random house I Google d the book as always and was amazed at what was there in the bookThe probability factor has always fascinated me with it s could bes and would bes here the author has taken it to an altogether new depths completely The beauty of such books is that though the author is a renowned in that field the book is written for a novice Someone who has interest in that topic and wants to know about the topic in detail would love reading this book The author has done an amazing work in bringing together some of the most profound theories in the simplest manner in this book making it a thoroughly enjoyable readStrongly recommended for people who enjoy reading topic based books coming from such renowned maestros How miracles rare events and coincidences happen Moreover everyday Begin this book by asking uestions and by the end you may probably reach an answer It s not however an answer to what causes those rare events but how those events are not actually improbable It provides a new perspective and a different direction to look at things and their probabilities how statistics and numbers can alter situations and view points David Hand tries to explain Improbability through the various strands of his principle the law of inevitability law of selection law of truly large numbers etc He explains this through examples real life and fictional and gives the book a lively sense Hand also tries to put up humor to ease the way of the reade I heard an interview on NPR with David Hand in which he shared a seemingly impossible coincidence involving Anthony Hopkins I retold the story to my wife who purchased the book for me that same night I have not been able to shut up about the book ever since Hand does an incredible ob of combining probability theory psychology math history and truly incredible stories to teach the 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

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Hether the book itself is not good or whether they simply made a poor selection in choosing to read it The Improbability Principle tells about an important concept albeit in a not so exciting way as it promisesBasically the principle stands at that anything that is not going to happen so in a never ever way can and will happen one day and that such instances of such improbable happening are in abundance around usWell sometimes I thought that is common sense and if you look closely at the other laws of the book the situations become and an obvious thingFor in shortthe book says that something IS going to happen with enough trials something of low probability WILL also happen and that as we look back we see the series of such events together that makes the probability of them happening a much duller event and tha This is the best book on statistics I ve ever read and I ve taken several courses on statistics You can apply the principles to playing the lottery and games of chance I m a backgammon player It will also change your thinking about coincidences and improbable events With enough tries anything that is possible is likely to happen People have won the lottery twice And when you investigate deeper some events might not have been so improbable in the first place Like the time my wife and I met our next door neighbors at London s Heathrow Airport Or the time I met a member of the Michigan NCAA championship basketball team in Los Angeles while I was wearing a T shirt commemorating the event Speaking of my next door neighbor we have the same birthday which I always thought was unusual But the book got me to thinking and I figured out that this probably occurs thousands of times in the Los Angeles area You ll never look at forecasts the same way either Forecasts such as computer forecasts are based on assumptions If your assumptions are even slightly off and they always are this creates large changes the results So the next time someone tells me the ocean level is going to rise by 20 feet I will take it with the proper dose of salt. E 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.

David J Hand is Senior Research Investigator and Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Imperial College London and Chief Scientific Advisor to Winton Capital Management He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a recipient of the Guy Medal of the Royal Statistical Society He has served twice as President of the Royal Statistical Society and is on the Board of the UK Statistics Authority H