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# The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy

Bayes' rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.

In the first-ever account of Bayes' rule for general readers, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explo ...more

In the first-ever account of Bayes' rule for general readers, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explo ...more

Hardcover, 336 pages

Published
May 17th 2011
by Yale University Press
(first published May 14th 2011)

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## Community Reviews

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According to the author, Bayes' rule is the greatest mathematical equation/formula/thought process in the history of hist ...more

The ebb and flow in belief in the theorem over the course of 150 years is interesting. Applying Bayes theorem requires a prior probability, and this is often poorly know ...more

Alas, that story, at least as presented in this book, turned out to be not quite so exciting. Except for the insights into Laplace's involvement, and in particular the interesting sections on Alan Turing's work, I found this to be a rather lifel ...more

The pro's: The author has done a phenomenal job at capturing and richly detailing the very "large" personalities that have championed (or condemned) the use of Bayes' Rule through the centuries, amidst a little-known and long-simmering war that has persisted between statistical Bayesians and frequentists since the concept was first brought forward. T ...more

Bayes' Rule is a mathematical formula that allows one to calculate a conditional probability (such as the probability that a woman has breast cancer given that she has a postive mammogram). It has many useful attributes, such as allowing one to updates ones estimates of a probability as you obtain new information, and can be adapted to deal with such basically non-numerical forms of information as expert opinion. One can also use it to estimate the probability of events that have not happened,

...moreHowever, I did not find this book well-written at all. It's just not an exciting read - and i ...more

Apr 19, 2014
Ms.pegasus
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
anyone who has read the Nate Silver book SIGNAL AND THE NOISE

Recommended to Ms.pegasus by:
citation if Nathan Silver's book

Shelves:
nonfiction,
history

As the subtitle proclaims, this book chronicles the history of science It also demonstrates how a simple formula evolved into a sophisticated application that required the invention of high speed computers to exploit its potential for prediction. It complements the information in Nate Silver's book, THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE.

McGrayne introduces the reader to Bayes's Theorem with the proposal that given the unknown position of a billiard ball, its probable position can be narrowed by collecting da ...more

McGrayne introduces the reader to Bayes's Theorem with the proposal that given the unknown position of a billiard ball, its probable position can be narrowed by collecting da ...more

Bayes' Rule allows you to "learn" by updating your (prior) degree of belief of something (i.e. probability of finding a sunken ship in a certain part of the ocean) given new information (i.e. a captain's log) in order to obtain knowledge in a "posterior" belie ...more

*The Theory That Would Not Die*by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, I knew that it was not an introduction to Bayesian statistics. I was still sufficiently intrigued by the subtitle

*How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy*to take it out of the library. The book had lots of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where,” but almost no “how.” I left with a knowledge who applied Bayes ...more

By giving us the life of Bayes, the childhood of Laplace , ... , I think the author is trying to force the book to have a narrative, but I doubt that many people buying books about mathematical theories are interested in the minor details of the mathematicians' lives. This type of writing would be bad enough if the importance of Bayesian analysis were clearly explained, but it isn't. For instance, in ...more

Aug 11, 2015
Thomas
rated it
it was ok
·
review of another edition

Recommended to Thomas by:
Ken Harrison

I'd say this is a good example of what can go wrong with a whirlwind tour. I never got a very good handle on any of the specific problems, or even the application of Bayes' rule itself. I read this in part because I work in a field where the ability to do Bayesian statistics might be useful. Unfortunately, I'm not much closer to that. I did like the problems in the appendix (and found them helpful in understanding), but I doubt that they are very representative of modern applications.

Bayes helps real-life practitioners assess evidence, combine every possible form of information, and cope with the gaps and uncertainties in their knowledge. Some of Bayes’ ...more

If you're at all interested in the history of mathematics, this is a surprisingly exciting story. I expected a rather dull and academic history; that is NOT what this book is.

*The Theory that Would Not Die*presents a thoroughly researched history and exploration of the ideas behind Bayesian statistics and how its methodology and employment for decision and probability analysis evolved over the past 250 years.

The book's Parts I and II fill in biographical details about Pierre-Simon Laplace and Alan Turing that flesh out their stories in great detail. The code-breaking work at Bletchley Park started far earlier than in the movie version, for example, and Laplace's biog ...more

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