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The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
With the born storyteller's command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe.
By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychologic...more
By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychologic...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published
May 13th 2008
by Vintage
(first published 2008)
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Aug 03, 2008
Lena
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
non-fiction,
how-the-brain-works
The Drunkard’s Walk is a book about randomness, a topic that most people, unless they happen to be mathematicians or have a strange fascination with statistics, probably don’t think too much about. As a species, in fact, we generally prefer not to dwell on randomness, but rather to assume that we are in control of much more of our lives than we actually are.
In this new book, physicist Leonard Mlodinow attempts to show why underestimating randomness is really not a good idea. He lays a foundatio...more
In this new book, physicist Leonard Mlodinow attempts to show why underestimating randomness is really not a good idea. He lays a foundatio...more
Yes, I was an English major so, yes, I LOVE literature, but my statistics courses were my favorite courses ever. I can't claim to be an expert statistician since I haven't run a chi-square analysis in eons and since I can only remember the phrase "data set" but can't remember how to collect one (kidding), but COME ON! Some of Mlodinow's information is interesting, but much of his logic seems unfounded and certainly begs some sort of question (and often a rather basic one at that). I've only fini...more
I hadn’t realised I had read this guy before, and remarkably recently. Euclid's Window The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace was a fascinating read and oddly enough, I was even reminded of it as I was reading this one and I still didn’t put two and two together (an appropriate enough metaphor for books on mathematics) until I was well over half way through. They are very similar books – presenting an entire field of mathematics to a non-mathematical audience from an historical...more
This is a very fun, entertaining book about the myriad ways in which random phenomena affect our lives. There is nothing really new here. As a physicist, I am already well familiar will all of the concepts introduced, concerning probability and statistics. But oh--what a variety of fascinating applications!
I love the story about the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade Magazine. Marilyn vos Savant holds the record for the world's highest IQ. She discussed the famous "Monty Hall" problem, and got aggra...more
I love the story about the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade Magazine. Marilyn vos Savant holds the record for the world's highest IQ. She discussed the famous "Monty Hall" problem, and got aggra...more
Fascinating book ... It was interesting how many people I spoke to about this get very passionate about randomness. Many people think acknowledging randomness is denying God.
The book is a bit chatty, and needs to focus a bit more on errors people make with statistics in their personal lives ... but Mlodinow hit on an essential concept.
I liked this lesson: that successful people are lucky, but that lucky people are persistent, flexible, and brave.
The book is a bit chatty, and needs to focus a bit more on errors people make with statistics in their personal lives ... but Mlodinow hit on an essential concept.
I liked this lesson: that successful people are lucky, but that lucky people are persistent, flexible, and brave.
May 15, 2012
aPriL meows, scratches and growls
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
science,
non-fiction
There is a lot that is disturbing in this book. The author discusses in a breezy, easy to understand conversational manner how randomness and chance are behind many human decisions which we believe to be either based on educated guesses or personal skills, as well as how luck functions far more than we know in how things turn out for us.
Briefly, but entertaining all the while, the author discusses famous incidents which illuminate the psychology behind mistaken beliefs of 'winning', discussing,...more
Briefly, but entertaining all the while, the author discusses famous incidents which illuminate the psychology behind mistaken beliefs of 'winning', discussing,...more
Awesome--
This book made me admire what modern statistics—a topic I couldn't care less—is capable of doing and convinced me, like Taleb's The Black Swan and Burton Malkiel's Random Walk Down Wall Street how randomness really rules our lives and it's important to recognize chance events and not mistakenly assign them some causality that's not there. The history of probability theory and statistics Mlodinow tells in this book is nothing short of fascinating, and I was floored by the answers to some...more
This book made me admire what modern statistics—a topic I couldn't care less—is capable of doing and convinced me, like Taleb's The Black Swan and Burton Malkiel's Random Walk Down Wall Street how randomness really rules our lives and it's important to recognize chance events and not mistakenly assign them some causality that's not there. The history of probability theory and statistics Mlodinow tells in this book is nothing short of fascinating, and I was floored by the answers to some...more
I'll admit it. I like books by Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Ariely. I liked Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. I know many consider these books lightweight and pseudointellectual, and that a more incisive critical reader than I am would probably make mincemeat of them. But I find them entertaining and interesting, even if they don't always hold up to critical a...more
You’re presented with three doors. Behind one door is a car and behind the other two doors are goats. Sound familiar? It is. You pick door number one. Instead of opening your choice, Monty opens door number two and reveals a goat. He then asks you if you wish to keep what’s behind your original choice (door one) or change your mind to door number three. If you think it makes no difference whether you switch or not and that your odds are 50/50 either way, you might be surprised at the answer and...more
I found this book fascinating. I knew I didn't understand statistics, but I didn't realize how little I understood about randomness and probability. The Monty Hall problem (aka "Let's make a deal", Ch. 3); the effect that naming a girl child "Florida" can have on the probability of having two girls (Bayesian theory, Ch. 6, p. 107); the errors that people consistently make on relative probabilities (see, e.g., p. 36-40). I especially liked the sections on how we tend to find patterns where there...more
this book is great. it takes you through the history of how the statistics and probabilities we understand (or try to understand) today were first proven. It's amazing how probability is just simply not an intuitive thing for the human mind. be prepared for some anecdotes that will leave you scratching your head. Mlodinov examples of human biases are entertaining and thought provoking. Anyone who likes interesting factoids, data, or wants to understand the world better will find this a good read...more
If we were all unfeeling iRobots (floor cleaners) who respond to the random encounters in our lives by simply changing direction then the premise of this book is justified, for we would all follow our individual drunkard's walks to whatever probabilistic future awaits us. (view spoiler)
...more
The weirdest thing about reading this book was the following:
I watched the movie "21" in which a team of college students under the tutelage of a greedy professor make tons of money in Las Vegas by counting cards while playing Black Jack. In one scene of the movie, probabilities are discussed and the professor brings up the scenario of the 3 doors on "Let's Make a Deal" and asks the class if it's better to stick with your first choice of doors AFTER the host reveals one of the doors behind which...more
I watched the movie "21" in which a team of college students under the tutelage of a greedy professor make tons of money in Las Vegas by counting cards while playing Black Jack. In one scene of the movie, probabilities are discussed and the professor brings up the scenario of the 3 doors on "Let's Make a Deal" and asks the class if it's better to stick with your first choice of doors AFTER the host reveals one of the doors behind which...more
Ein richtig gutes Buch für alle die, die sich ein bisschen für Mathematik interessieren, aber in der Schule (so wie ich) spätestens bei der Integralrechnung ausgestiegen sind. Unterhaltsam und anschaulich wird einem vor Augen geführt, wie leicht man sich bei statistischen Fragen oder bei Wahrscheinlichkeiten täuschen oder auch - im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes - verrechnen kann.
Manches wird ein bisschen aufdringlich wiederholt (ok, Lektoren und Weinexperten sind auch nur Menschen), und manches ist...more
Manches wird ein bisschen aufdringlich wiederholt (ok, Lektoren und Weinexperten sind auch nur Menschen), und manches ist...more
I have a math background and an interest in the mind and enjoyed reading books like Predictably Irrational and Thinking, Fast and Slow. Given Mlodinow's reputation as a physicist, I expected a reasonably sophisticated presentation, albeit one that did not require a heavy math background. I was prepared for the book to be basic and probably start with the rudiments of probability, but the presentation is SO basic that the title term "drunkard's walk" does not even occur in the book until page 176...more
Despite the seemingly highly rated reviews this book has received, I suspect it is more of a case of this book was hard to read which means it must be good that accounts for its ratings rather than any credit to the author's writing.
The Drunkard's walk, despite Mr. Mlodinow's attempts at following Mr. Gladwell's formula, does not succeed in copying Mr. Gladwell's easy to read voice as well. First of all, although the subtitle SAYS "how randomness rules our lives," I actually found the book to be...more
The Drunkard's walk, despite Mr. Mlodinow's attempts at following Mr. Gladwell's formula, does not succeed in copying Mr. Gladwell's easy to read voice as well. First of all, although the subtitle SAYS "how randomness rules our lives," I actually found the book to be...more
This was far froma random walk through the history and application of statistics and probability to ebryday life, although the typos in the last chapters of the kindle version might support the opposite conclusion. Although many of the topics are familiar to late high school/early university maths courses, the history, anecdotal illustrations and examples are woven together to build an enjoyable story of what is generally considered to be a dry topic. Most of the examples are not heavy on the ma...more
A very good and accessible introduction to probability and randomness. Most people don't appreciate the fact that most of what we see every day is the product of chance. Social scientists are, ironically, sometimes more blind to this fact than others, because we are trained to hunt for patterns, and we therefore tend to find them even if they aren't there. (For anyone who does statistics, one way of thinking about this is that the typical social scientist routinely underestimates the magnitude o...more
I am, admittedly, completely dense when it comes to mathematics, statistics, and various scientific theoretical discussions, but this book not only made me understand complex (and counterintuitive) analyses about how randomness is a key element in our lives, but Mlodinow's conversational, witty, and lucid discussion absolutely entranced me. This is a fascinating book about a fascinating subject, and even if you don't usually go in for this sort of thing, I really recommend it.
This is an excellent layperson's primer on the mathematics of randomness. Unfortunately, I was reading it just before bed, getting through a page a night before falling asleep. Took me forever to finish, particularly since I needed to reread the passage from the night before (or further back, so I could follow the logic of his statements.
I'm rereading it, but now I have a pavlovian sleep reaction to the text. I may never be able to grasp random now.
I'm rereading it, but now I have a pavlovian sleep reaction to the text. I may never be able to grasp random now.
So this was pretty good. I had it on my to read list for awhile so I may have built it up a bit too much in my mind before getting started though because I kept waiting for the book to "pick up" in some areas. Overall though good read, really enjoyable. A lot of these anecdotes have been used before though. I think he could have come up with a few more unique scenarios. Still it was fun. I have always thought the wine ratings were a bit suss anyway.
Jan 14, 2012
Margie
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Recommends it for:
PhD candidates whose presentations ALWAYS include formulas
Recommended to Margie by:
Liz
Worth reading, and for me it's worth buying. Explains a lot of mathematical theories related to probabilities and chance in clear, friendly language.
I thought it was interesting that he was able to explain things so clearly without using any formulas. Maybe I should recommend it to my students.
I thought it was interesting that he was able to explain things so clearly without using any formulas. Maybe I should recommend it to my students.
This is an excellent layman's guide to how random chance dictates various aspects of our lives, and how poorly equipped the human mind is to deal with randomness, even after training. It's also a good primer on various core concepts of statistics and probability, such as combinatorics, confidence intervals, and the central limit theorem.
Mlodinow writes anecdotally, using salient examples from the news and his own life to illustrate how, in every conceivable domain, even intelligent people can't...more
Mlodinow writes anecdotally, using salient examples from the news and his own life to illustrate how, in every conceivable domain, even intelligent people can't...more
This is an enjoyable synopsis of basic principles of probability and statistics. Lest that sound like an oxymoron, Mlodinow really does manage to be entertaining while covering such topics as Pascal's triangle, normal distributions, standard deviations, Chi square analysis, Bayesian analysis, and type I and type II statistical errors. He weaves in thought-provoking questions and injects interesting anecdotes about the mathematicians who came up with these ideas. If you are a mathematician, you w...more
To get to its core idea, this book passes through basic probability theory, human cognitive shortcomings, the history of probability theory, biographical anecdotes of mathematicians, and the Monty Hall problem, but it does finally end up at "The cord that tethers ability to success is both loose and elastic." (p216). It's easy to see patterns in what has already happened, and construct narratives about how successes are due to personal virtues of those who succeeded and failures due to personal...more
Dec 18, 2011
Aaron
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Recommends it for:
Anyone interested chance, gambling, and some interesting math lessons
Shelves:
general,
social-science
Overall I'll give it to Leonard Mlodinow for writing a math book that's surprisingly accessible to the general public. Well, maybe it's not exactly a math book, or even a statistics book. But there's a fair amount of each and he did a fine job with keeping it generally light and interesting.
Mlodinow explains that there are basically two definitions of random, and they don't always go together (pp. 84-85). The first is by Charles Sanders Peirce and basically states that a process or method is tr...more
Mlodinow explains that there are basically two definitions of random, and they don't always go together (pp. 84-85). The first is by Charles Sanders Peirce and basically states that a process or method is tr...more
Yeah, that's right. A book about probability theory. And actually, it's not bad if you can either shrug off or endure a bit of lecturing on basic mathematics and statistics. Author Leonard Mlodinow sets out to review the history of probability, starting with the ancient Greeks and following the field's evolution and application. Mlodinow has a pretty good style, keeping things relatively low level so that anyone with a high school education in math can probably follow along. He also peppers the...more
Dec 15, 2013
Carly
rated it
5 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
nonfiction,
math-science
**edited 12/15/13
Agh, I love this book. The first time I read it, I hadn't yet encountered The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference or Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. On a second read, I discovered just how snarky Mlodinow is about them and their tendency to infer patterns where they may or may not exist. I still think he goes too far, though. Just because randomness is everywhere doesn't mean that there isn't an underlying signal; ra...more
Agh, I love this book. The first time I read it, I hadn't yet encountered The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference or Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. On a second read, I discovered just how snarky Mlodinow is about them and their tendency to infer patterns where they may or may not exist. I still think he goes too far, though. Just because randomness is everywhere doesn't mean that there isn't an underlying signal; ra...more
UPDATE 4/30/13
I'm revising my rating of this up a star, because I just realized that I'm still thinking about one of this book's concepts years later (specifically, how we view people who depend on factors outside of their direct control— CEOs, baseball players, etc.—without taking a long view of the trend towards the mean, thereby discounting the effects of random chance when evaluating their performance). Whatever nits I picked at the time I read it, this book taught me something interesting t...more
I'm revising my rating of this up a star, because I just realized that I'm still thinking about one of this book's concepts years later (specifically, how we view people who depend on factors outside of their direct control— CEOs, baseball players, etc.—without taking a long view of the trend towards the mean, thereby discounting the effects of random chance when evaluating their performance). Whatever nits I picked at the time I read it, this book taught me something interesting t...more
Jun 07, 2012
Sarah Clement
rated it
4 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition
Shelves:
skeptics-book-club
This book is a well-written, common sense account of probability for the layperson. I found it entertaining and it reminded me of past statistics courses - things I had forgotten I had even learned. However, it's not really what I was expecting. I expected more focus on how we misjudge probability in our every day lives, but that discussion felt ancillary to the discussion of the history of statistics in the book. I don't want to make it sound boring, because it wasn't, and the last third of the...more
topics | posts | views | last activity | |
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Science and Inquiry: * April 2012 - Drunkard's Walk | 36 | 93 | May 25, 2012 10:15PM |
Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist and author.
Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959, of parents who were both Holocaust survivors. His father, who spent more than a year in the Buchenwald death camp, had been a leader in the Jewish resistance under Nazi rule in his hometown of Częstochowa, Poland. As a child, Mlodinow was interested in both mathematics and chemistry, and while in high schoo...more
More about Leonard Mlodinow...
Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959, of parents who were both Holocaust survivors. His father, who spent more than a year in the Buchenwald death camp, had been a leader in the Jewish resistance under Nazi rule in his hometown of Częstochowa, Poland. As a child, Mlodinow was interested in both mathematics and chemistry, and while in high schoo...more
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“Perception requires imagination because the data people encounter in their lives are never complete and always equivocal. For example, most people consider that the greatest evidence of an event one can obtain is to see it with their own eyes, and in a court of law little is held in more esteem than eyewitness testimony. Yet if you asked to display for a court a video of the same quality as the unprocessed data catptured on the retina of a human eye, the judge might wonder what you were tryig to put over. For one thing, the view will have a blind spot where the optic nerve attaches to the retina. Moreover, the only part of our field of vision with good resolution is a narrow area of about 1 degree of visual angle around the retina’s center, an area the width of our thumb as it looks when held at arm’s length. Outside that region, resolution drops off sharply. To compensate, we constantly move our eyes to bring the sharper region to bear on different portions of the scene we wish to observe. And so the pattern of raw data sent to the brain is a shaky, badly pixilated picture with a hole in it. Fortunately the brain processes the data, combining input from both eyes, filling in gaps on the assumption that the visual properties of neighboring locations are similar and interpolating. The result - at least until age, injury, disease, or an excess of mai tais takes its toll - is a happy human being suffering from the compelling illusion that his or her vision is sharp and clear.
We also use our imagination and take shortcuts to fill gaps in patterns of nonvisual data. As with visual input, we draw conclusions and make judgments based on uncertain and incomplete information, and we conclude, when we are done analyzing the patterns, that out “picture” is clear and accurate. But is it?”
—
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We also use our imagination and take shortcuts to fill gaps in patterns of nonvisual data. As with visual input, we draw conclusions and make judgments based on uncertain and incomplete information, and we conclude, when we are done analyzing the patterns, that out “picture” is clear and accurate. But is it?”
“Another mistaken notion connected with the law of large numbers is the idea that an event is more or less likely to occur because it has or has not happened recently. The idea that the odds of an event with a fixed probability increase or decrease depending on recent occurrences of the event is called the gambler's fallacy. For example, if Kerrich landed, say, 44 heads in the first 100 tosses, the coin would not develop a bias towards the tails in order to catch up! That's what is at the root of such ideas as "her luck has run out" and "He is due." That does not happen. For what it's worth, a good streak doesn't jinx you, and a bad one, unfortunately , does not mean better luck is in store.”
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