Uncertainty is everywhere. It lurks in every consideration of the future - the weather, the economy, the sex of an unborn child - even quantities we think that we know such as populations or the transit of the planets contain the possibility of error. It's no wonder that, throughout that history, we have attempted to produce rigidly defined areas of uncertainty - we prefer the surprise party to the surprise asteroid.
We began our quest to make certain an uncertain world by reading omens in livers, tea leaves, and the stars. However, over the centuries, driven by curiosity, competition, and a desire be better gamblers, pioneering mathematicians and scientists began to reduce wild uncertainties to tame distributions of probability and statistical inferences. But, even as unknown unknowns became known unknowns, our pessimism made us believe that some problems were unsolvable and our intuition misled us. Worse, as we realized how omnipresent and varied uncertainty is, we encountered chaos, quantum mechanics, and the limitations of our predictive power.
Bestselling author Professor Ian Stewart explores the history and mathematics of uncertainty. Touching on gambling, probability, statistics, financial and weather forecasts, censuses, medical studies, chaos, quantum physics, and climate, he makes one thing clear: a reasonable probability is the only certainty.
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 453 g
Dimensions: 234 x 153 x 22 mm
Praise for Ian Stewart: Stewart is Britain's most brilliant and prolific populariser of maths -- Alex Belos
This is not pure maths. It is maths contaminated with wit, wisdom, and wonder ... He guides us on a mind-boggling journey from the ultra trivial to the profound. Thoroughly entertaining * New Scientist *
Humbling and inspiring. Stewart shows with his typical clarity how the power of pure thought has shaped our world for over two millennia. -- Jim Al-Khalili, FRS
This is a superb Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities that deserves a place with the classics of the genre * Mathematics Today *
'With captivating stories and his signature clarity, Ian Stewart shows us how math makes the world - and the rest of the universe - go round. -- Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of X
Stewart has served up the instructive equivalent of a Michelin-starred tasting menu, or perhaps a smorgasbord of appetisers. And of course, appetisers are designed to give you an appetite for more. -- Tim Radford * Guardian *