The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Leonard Mlodinow

Language: English

Pages: 252

ISBN: 0307275175

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


With the born storyteller's command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe.

By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow's intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

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randomness would have been irrelevant. Thus a mathematical prediction of randomness would have seemed impossible. Another answer may lie in the very philosophy that made the Greeks such great mathematicians: they insisted on absolute truth, proved by logic and axioms, and frowned on uncertain pronouncements. In Plato’s Phaedo, for example, Simmias tells Socrates that “arguments from probabilities are impostors” and anticipates the work of Kahneman and Tversky by pointing out that “unless great

record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions,” and “even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject [World War II] was timely, I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.” That book, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, has sold 30 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books in history. Rejection letters were also sent to Sylvia Plath because “there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice,” to

of significance is fairly impressive, and so the media might report the feat as new evidence of the existence of psychic powers. Still, those of us who don’t believe in psychic powers might remain skeptical. This example illustrates an important point: even with data significant at, say, the 3 percent level, if you test 100 nonpsychic people for psychic abilities—or 100 ineffective drugs for their effectiveness—you ought to expect a few people to show up as psychic or a few ineffective drugs to

a counterpoint to Koppett’s story, consider now the story of a fellow who does have credentials, a fellow named Bill Miller. For years, Miller maintained a winning streak that, unlike Koppett’s, was compared to Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak and the seventy-four consecutive victories by the Jeopardy! quiz-show champ Ken Jennings. But in at least one respect these comparisons were not very apt: Miller’s streak earned him each year more than those other gentlemen’s streaks had earned

Einstein (London: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 17; see also the discussion on p. 89. 33. On Brown and the history of Brownian motion, see D. J. Mabberley, Jupiter Botanicus: Robert Brown of the British Museum (Braunschweig, Germany, and London: Verlag von J. Cramer / Natural History Museum, 1985); Brian J. Ford, “Brownian Movement in Clarkia Pollen: A Reprise of the First Observations,” Microscope 40, no. 4 (1992): 235–41; and Stephen Brush, “A History of Random Processes. I. Brownian

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