The Math of Life and Death: 7 Mathematical Principles That Shape Our Lives

Kit Yates. Scribner, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-9821-1187-8
Ponzi schemes, nuclear fission, and viral marketing are just a few of the topics covered in this savvy book from first-time author Yates, a senior mathematics lecturer at the University of Bath. Exposing the “shaky mathematics” behind the Body Mass Index and health-related diagnostic tools, Yates also offers skepticism of home DNA testing kits and the risk calculations offered by genome-testing companies. Yates considers how calculation errors and “pseudomathematical arguments” have led to wrongful convictions, including of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, condemned to life imprisonment in 1894 after an expert witness’s “abstruse mathematical analysis” linked him to a handwritten message offering French military secrets to the Germans. (Over a decade later, the famous mathematician Henri Poincaré pointed out a basic problem with the witness’s math, and Dreyfus was exonerated.) With fervor, Yates exposes the misuse of statistics and use of “mathematical misdirections” in patient-advice publications and scientific literature. Readers with backgrounds in math should particularly enjoy the heavier chapters, covering topics such as optimization and the seven Millennium Prize Problems, “considered to be the most important unresolved problems in mathematics.” However, any inquisitive and open-minded reader can enjoy this valuable primer on the use and abuse of numbers in the everyday world. Agent: Jason Bartholomew, Hodder. (U.K.) (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/02/2019
Release date: 01/07/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-79710-262-7
Book - 978-1-982111-89-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-79710-264-1
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