cover image The Broken Dice, and Other Mathematical Tales of Chance

The Broken Dice, and Other Mathematical Tales of Chance

Ivar Ekeland. University of Chicago Press, $27 (190pp) ISBN 978-0-226-19991-7

This elegantly written essay is a subtle philosophical meditation on the role of chance, risk, fate and uncertainty in mathematics, physics, nature and our daily lives. Modern civilization ``moves forward without measuring the risks incurred, and without thinking globally,'' warns Ekeland ( Mathematics and the Unexplained ), president of the Universite Paris-Dauphine. Stressing that chance is an inescapable, fundamental part of the universe, he examines its workings in subatomic physics, card playing, weather prediction, at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in chaos theory, statistics and information theory. Leavening his occasionally technical presentation with literary examples ranging from Norse sagas to Rabelais, Isaac Asimov and Jorge Luis Borges, Ekeland concludes that every decision-making problem has a moral dimension--and the more important the decision, the larger this dimension. Illustrated. (Oct.)