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
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,...more
However, I did not find this book well-written at all. It's just not an exciting read - and i ...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
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
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.
While the author describes many applications of Bayesian methods to problems in a variety of fields, no detail is provided as to the basis of the prior knowledge nor the nature of the incremental knowledge that was used to update the priors.
An example of the Bayesian view of breast cancer testing is provided in a short appendix.
The intended audience of the book is not clear. I ...more
I did enjoy some chapters significantly more than the others. Though the book is aimed at
the general public interested in science (not necessarily trained in Bayesian statistics), I believe
that having experience in Bayesian statistics does make the book more enjoyable, which is of course
not surprising. I would have preferred if the author had been more relaxed in terms of some of the vocabulary
she used; i ...more
It's interesting that Bayes' Theorem wasn't accepted at first, and why, and how it languished in obscurity until proving its worth, and being a secret weapon, of sorts, of the US against the Russians. But that's maybe half the book, and the rest just isn't very interesting.
Being constrained to real history hinders the bo ...more