This book is an engaging, comprehensive guide to strategies, as applied to everyday life. The first part of the book focuses on standard game theory,This book is an engaging, comprehensive guide to strategies, as applied to everyday life. The first part of the book focuses on standard game theory, graphical notations for various problems, and applications of the prisoners' dilemma to everyday situations. The second part of the book concentrates more on everyday and business problems, and strategies to achieve optimal solutions. Game theory is not always applicable to all of these problems, but logic and rational problem-solving and a bit of mathematics are ever-present.

The book explores the voting issue in some detail. When two candidates are running against each other, the best strategy of course is to vote for your first choice. When three or more candidates are running, it is not always best to vote for your first choice, especially if you believe that your first choice has no chance of winning. For example, in the presidential election of 2000, there were three candidates, Bush, Gore, and Nader. If you preferred Nader to the others, you could vote for him, but your vote would be pretty much wasted, as he had little chance of winning. It would be best to vote for your second choice. But, what if the election was predicted to be much closer; what would the best strategy be then?

Furthermore, the book explores other voting systems that would allow you to list all of your voting preferences? For example, what if you could vote on all of the candidates, listing their names in preferential order. Various vote-tallying systems could take these preferences into account, and come up with a fairer assessment of the most-preferred candidate.

But here's the rub; there are numerous vote-tallying systems, each of them objective, but depending on which one is chosen, a different candidate could win. The book goes into some detail in considering the different outcomes of the 2002 presidential race, considering several of these systems.

The book also describes three different systems for auctions. Although the systems differ dramatically, the optimum strategy is the same for all of the systems.

The book describes various approaches for political negotiations. Examples include incentives and threats. But a threat is only good if it is credible. The book describes some historical approaches that have made threats credible. Another type of strategy is how a company can best compete with other companies, by setting prices that will maximize profitability.

The book has a set of exercises to try out your newly-gained understanding. One of the exercises is to consider how to make a good first impression on a first date. You are faced with two simultaneous problems; how to prove your sincerity and quality to your date, and how best to assess the sincerity and quality of your date. In other words, what is the best strategy for signaling and screening?

This book is best appreciated if you are not afraid of some simple algebra. However, many of the strategies are not at all mathematical, but simply rely on logic. I thoroughly enjoyed this book; some of the chapters were a bit repetitive, but not overly so. ...more

This is a wonderful book about mathematics and its application to everyday life. Jordan Ellenberg shows that the certainty that people associate withThis is a wonderful book about mathematics and its application to everyday life. Jordan Ellenberg shows that the certainty that people associate with math is often misplaced; some areas of math are devoted to uncertainty, and that's where things get very interesting.

Ellenberg starts the book with a beautiful example of application of mathematics, logic, and thinking out of the box. During World War II, a group of mathematicians working for the Statistical Research Group were given a problem by some Air Force officers. Fighter planes returning from missions were analyzed for bullet holes. The number of bullet holes per square foot were counted. For example, there were 1.11 bullet holes per square foot in the vicinity of the engine, 1.73 in the fuselage, 1.55 in the fuel system, and 1.8 in the rest of the plane. The officers wanted to add some armor to the planes; the question was where? The planes could only support so much weight, and where would additional armor be most advantageous? The officers thought that since the fuselage had the greatest density of bullets, that would be the logical location for more armor. A mathematician named Abraham Wald said exactly the opposite; more armor is needed where the bullet holes aren't, namely, around the engines. Planes with lots of bullet holes in the engine did not return at all!

The book discusses the issue of statistical significance. Scientific experiment often use a 95% confidence threshold as an indicator of statistical significance. This means that if a truly random outcome were expected, a positive correlation would be seen only 5% of the time. Ellenberg includes an xkcd cartoon that shows how easy it would be to perform a set of experiments that could come up with statistically significant results like "Green jelly beans linked to acne! at the 95% confidence level.

Some of the section and chapter titles are hilarious. For example, in the chapter titled "Are you there, God? It's me, Bayesian Inference", Ellenberg brings up a scary example of the use of "big data". Based on a teen-age girl's purchases of unscented lotion, mineral supplements, and cotton balls, the retail store "Target" began sending her coupons for baby gear, because of the (correct) inference that she was pregnant. Another great section title is "One more thing about God, then I promise we're done."

Another interesting title is "The Cat in the Hat, the Cleanest man in school, and the creation of the universe", in which Ellenberg reviews some of the probabilistic arguments for and against the existence of god. And I love the famous quote by Richard Feynman:

You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW375. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!

I also love the chapter title, "If Gambling is exciting, you're doing it wrong". Ellenberg describes how several groups capitalized on several state lotteries. Due to some strange lottery rules, it is (was?) possible to reliably make a profit, given enough investment of resources. No illegal shenanigans--the states make money no matter what you do. You could make a profit by taking advantage of the rules, and of the people who buy lottery tickets without a coherent strategy. And, I did not realize that Voltaire made his fortune by taking advantage of state lotteries!

Ellenberg brings up the phenomenon of Nate Silver predicting the outcome of the Obama-vs.-Romney election. Silver predicted the probability of both candidates winning state by state, along with the margin of error. By adding up the probable errors, he estimated that he would be wrong by 2.83 states. Critics seemed to have ignored the fact that he was not wrong by this many states--in fact he correctly predicted the outcome in all 50 states!

I highly recommend this book to all people who are even vaguely interested in math, probability, logic, and the application to everyday life. This is an excellent book!...more

This book is a wonderful introduction to history of predicting stock prices using mathematics and concepts from physics. It is basically a history ofThis book is a wonderful introduction to history of predicting stock prices using mathematics and concepts from physics. It is basically a history of pricing models; from the earliest mathematical models to the most modern ones. Of course, the best ones are maintained in secret by some super-secretive investment companies, for good reason. The only way a pricing model can be profitable is it to be better than most others being used.

The author, James Weatherall, has a PhD in physics, and is presently an assistant professor of logic and philosophy of science at the University of California, Irvine. He writes with clarity and an engaging style. His narrative follows a logical path, and does not take big diversions along the way.

Now, many of the subjects of this book are not physics at all, but applied mathematics. For example, the so-called "black box" model does not use any physics, but use purely statistical associations that are discovered algorithmically. Their name stems from the fact that they are opaque; they may make accurate predictions, but they offer no insight into the reasons for their predictions. Hence, it is difficult to judge how much confidence should be given to their results. But, for example, a model that predicts an investment strategy that returns a hundred times the S&P 500 over a fifteen-year period is nothing to be sneezed at.

Some of the models are definitely an application of physics concepts, such as the gauge theory model. I find if fascinating that this arcane physics concept has some practical applications in economics and predictions.

Some people blame these computer models for the disastrous economic downturns and stock market volatility that occur from time to time. While Weatherall sympathizes with this attitude, he wholeheartedly endorses the models, as they are simply tools. Sometimes, the assumptions and limitations of these tools are ignored, with dire consequences....more

The first half of this book is a review of modern physics on the macro and micro scales. The second half of this book is a discussion of the author'sThe first half of this book is a review of modern physics on the macro and micro scales. The second half of this book is a discussion of the author's speculation, that the universe is a mathematical structure. Max Tegmark is quite clear--he is not saying that the universe is described by mathematics, but that the universe is mathematics. He calls this the "Mathematical Universe Hypothesis", or "MUH" for short.

Tegmark asserts that this idea is a testable, falsifiable hypothesis. I did not find the experimental test, but perhaps I simply missed it. To be perfectly frank, I don't even understand his reasoning.

The last chapter of the book switches gears entirely, and discusses the existential threats to human survival. Things like asteroid collisions, eventual expansion of the sun, and so on. Then the book describes the two most immediate threats to human existence. The first is a nuclear war. And the second is--are you sitting down for this?--the singularity, where artificial intelligence takes over the world.

I didn't read this book--I listened to the audiobook, read by Rob Shapiro. He did an excellent job, giving the narration an aura of authenticity. It's just too bad that the content of the book is not as good as the narration....more

This is a very good book about methods for computing probability puzzles. There are two types of methods discussed here: analytic solutions and computThis is a very good book about methods for computing probability puzzles. There are two types of methods discussed here: analytic solutions and computer simulations. The book is intended for readers with a strong mathematics background. Good algebra skills are essential, and calculus is also required to solve some of the puzzles analytically.

This book is divided into three parts. The first part is a description of 21 puzzles. The descriptions go into some detail, and provide hints. The second part contains the analytic solutions to the puzzles. The third part contains computer programs for simulating the solutions; the programs are written in Matlab, which for me is just perfect.

The puzzles have interesting names, for example, "How to Ask an Embarrassing Question", "When Idiots Duels", "Who Pays for the Coffee", "The Unsinkable Tub is Sinking!", "The Blind Spider and the Fly." The puzzles are all different; solving any one of them requires an approach different from any other. This is a well thought-out book, highly recommended for anybody with a need to try challenging puzzles that require some thought and mathematical skills....more

The Universe in Zero Words is a beautiful book, in all senses of the word. Dana Mackenzie devotes several pages to each of many equations that made aThe Universe in Zero Words is a beautiful book, in all senses of the word. Dana Mackenzie devotes several pages to each of many equations that made a difference in the spheres of mathematics, science, and economics. The history of each equation is told superbly, as well as the meaning of each equation and its applications in the real world. The explanations are geared toward the layman--you don't have to be a mathematician to understand most of the explanations.

Dana Mackenzie is a mathematician, and his enthusiasm for the subject shines through his writing. He chose equations that have been important in the development of mathematics and science. I found his choice of equations to be quite good, and I learned a lot, even though I was already very familiar with the majority of the equations. A few, however, were quite new to me. The equation of quarternions is brand new for me, and Mackenzie tells why; the concept is rarely mentioned in modern-day physics textbooks. Also, the Black-Scholes equation is entirely new to me, as it is used by financial analysts and "quants".

The book is filled with beautiful illustrations and diagrams. In fact--I strongly urge interested readers to obtain a printed copy of the book, rather than an e-book version. The beauty of the printing, the layout, typography and illustrations add a considerable amount of charm to the reading experience. ...more

This is a fun book of puzzles of all types; mathematical, logical, algorithms, estimation, mind games and creativity. There is also lots of interviewThis is a fun book of puzzles of all types; mathematical, logical, algorithms, estimation, mind games and creativity. There is also lots of interview advice, when applying for a job. The advice is good not just for Google, but for many other companies as well.

It was fun trying to solve the puzzles. Lots of them are quite tricky. I was able to solve some, others I flubbed.

The book correctly points out that, even though lots of companies rely on such puzzles during interviews, they are not reliable predictors of eventual performance on the job. In fact, sometimes there is zero correlation between interview performance and job performance.

The book mentions the "20% project" at Google, where employees are allowed to work on any idea they may have, for one day a week. The book cites a list of highly-regarded products that came out of these 20% projects. I recently read that, unfortunately, this perk has been rescinded at Google.

The last half of the book supplies not just the answers to all the puzzles, but detailed explanations as well. The style of the writing has a light touch, and is often subtly humorous. I recommend the book for all those who like a diverse range of challenging puzzles....more

This is a fantastic book about predictions. I enjoyed every page. The book is filled to the brim with diagrams and charts that help get the points acrThis is a fantastic book about predictions. I enjoyed every page. The book is filled to the brim with diagrams and charts that help get the points across. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an examination of all the ways that predictions go wrong. The second part is about how applying Bayes Theorem can make predictions go right.

The book focuses on predictions in a wide variety of topics; economics, the stock market, politics, baseball, basketball, weather, climate, earthquakes, chess, epidemics, poker, and terrorism! Each topic is covered lucidly, in sufficient detail, so that the reader gets a good grasp of the problems and issues for predictions.

There are so many fascinating insights, I can only try to convey a few. At the present time, it is impossible to predict earthquakes, that is, to state ahead of time when and where a certain magnitude earthquake will occur. But it is possible to forecast earthquakes in a probabilistic sense, using a power law. Likewise, it may be possible to forecast terrorism, because that too, follows a power law! (Well, it follows a power law in NATO countries, probably because of the efforts to combat terrorists. But in Israel, the tail of the curve falls below the power law, likely because of the stronger anti-terror emphasis there.)

The accuracy of weather predictions increases slowly but steadily, year by year. Ensembles of computer model runs are part of the story, but human judgment add value, and increases the accuracy. Weather forecasts issued by the National Weather Service are unbiased in a probabilistic sense. But weather forecasts by the TV weatherman are very strongly biased--the weatherman over-predicts precipitation by a significant amount.

Nate Silver shows that the people who are most confident are the ones that make the worst predictions. The best predictions are those that are couched in quantitative uncertainties. Silver shows how Bayes Theorem can be applied to improve predictions; it is all about probabilities. And I just love this footnote,

A conspiracy theory might be thought of as the laziest form of signal analysis. As the Harvard professor H.L. "Skip" Gates says, "Conspiracy theories are an irresistible labor-saving device in the face of complexity."

Paul Erdos was a prolific, well-known mathematician. He wrote over 1400 journal articles in various mathematical publications, many of them collaboratPaul Erdos was a prolific, well-known mathematician. He wrote over 1400 journal articles in various mathematical publications, many of them collaborations. Those people who collaborated with him earned an Erdos "number 1". Those who collaborated with someone who collaborated with him earned a "number 2", and so on.

To say that Erdos was "eccentric" would be an understatement. He had no home--he carried a suitcase with a single change of clothes in it, and traveled the world, visiting one mathematician after another. He would stay at a mathematician's home until he became unwelcome--and that was not long at all. Erdos only slept a few hours at night, so he kept his hosts pretty busy! He was physically inept, so help left trails and messes in his wake. The collection of anecdotes about his life are amusing, and usually center on his single-mindedness about mathematics.

Erdos' main area of expertise was number theory. Paul Hoffman has written a very readable book, expertly interleaving chapters about number theory with Erdos' biography. This gives a layman some understanding about the sorts of problems that Erdos solved. I learned some interesting things about mathematics, and also about the psychology of mathematicians. This was a fun book to read, and I can recommend it to anybody.

By the way, baseball great Hank Aaron earned an "Erdos number 1"--read the book if you are curious to find out why!...more

Despite the title, this book is not primarily about Alan Turing. It is really about the group of people at the Institute of Advanced Studies at PrinceDespite the title, this book is not primarily about Alan Turing. It is really about the group of people at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton. Much of the book focuses on John von Neumann, who spearheaded the effort to build some of the earliest electronic computers. These first computers were very unreliable--incorrect results were as likely due to faulty vacuum tubes as coding errors. In fact, circuits had to be designed to be robust to vacuum tubes that did not follow specs.

Quite a large chunk of the book--and the most fascinating--dealt with the types of mathematical and physical problems that the earliest computers could solve. In fact, that was the principal interest of von Neumann--learning what types of problems could be solved using computers. Here, Alan Turing and Kurt Godel played a large role in defining what sorts of problems might be solvable.

Among the problems that the earliest computers attacked was weather forecasting. In the late 1940's, there was much controversy about the feasibility of numerically computing forecasts in principle. Of course, weathermen wanted to continue to use their gut feelings to forecast the weather, while some scientists thought that, given sufficient spatial resolution, the weather could be forecast far in advance. It was not until later that people like Lorenz discovered that there are fundamental limits to how far in advance weather can be forecast.

The earliest computers were also used for developing the atomic bomb. Many aspects of the physics were not solvable using direct means. Simulations using a brand new numerical method called "Monte Carlo" were extremely significant for solving them. For this method to work, random numbers are required for initiating independent simulated trajectories. But random numbers were not easy to come by, so a special program helped to develop algorithms for computing them.

This book goes into considerable depth, in describing the people who developed and used the first computers at the institute. There are fascinating descriptions of the mathematical, physics, and biological puzzles that were attempted. I recommend the book highly, for those interested in the history of numerical computation.

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 physiciThis 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 aggravated letters from 10,000 readers, including 1,000 PhD's (many mathematicians!) who claimed her analysis was wrong. Nevertheless, she was absolutely correct--people just do not have a firm grasp of probability concepts.

The book explains lots of interesting puzzles and paradoxes. For me, the best part of the book is the discussion of how statistically random events conspire to make "outliers". This comes up again and again, in understanding "genius" mutual fund managers and fast-growing mega-companies.

My only disappointment, is the book's emphasis on the so-called "normal" (Gaussian) distribution, to the exclusion of other distributions. Many economic and natural environmental events are outliers that deviate from the normal distribution, as described so well in Benoit Mandelbrot's The (Mis)Behavior of Markets....more

This book develops the mathematical equations for modeling a variety of fascinating topics in evolution. If you are comfortable with equations, and haThis book develops the mathematical equations for modeling a variety of fascinating topics in evolution. If you are comfortable with equations, and have some background in linear algebra, then you are well-equipped for the formalism in this book.

What is best about this book, is how Martin Nowak develops the models starting from simple sets of equations. As the subject matter is developed, the models gain sophistication as additional parameters and feedback mechanisms are introduced. I especially like the game theory models, that are pretty much all based on the so-called "Prisoner's Dilemma". I also like the evolution of spatial structures through fractals.

I thought that I would enjoy the penultimate chapter, on language evolution. But then it suddenly hit me; none of the models are quantitatively compared against observations or data. The chapter on evolution of the HIV virus mentions that the model explains the long incubation period of AIDS. But, aside from such qualitative explanations, I was really disillusioned by the lack of model-data comparisons. The book also lacks good discussions about how the mathematical models can be interpreted and applied; they all contain parameters that seem to be totally arbitrary, and it is not at all clear what ranges are reasonable. The book would be much improved by additional interpretation of the models in terms of biology....more

Having dealt with mathematics as applied to physics all of my professional life, this book provides a welcome change. What amazed me is the sheer variHaving dealt with mathematics as applied to physics all of my professional life, this book provides a welcome change. What amazed me is the sheer variety of mathematical approaches that are being applied to biology, including Fibonacci sequences, networks, cellular automata, topology, game theory, multi-dimensional geometries. I had no idea that Alan Turing did work with reaction-diffusion equations, that can be used to model patterns in animal skin stripes versus spots.

The book is written very clearly, well organized, and is completely understandable to the layman. Stewart explains that while mathematical models are not completely realistic, simplifying approximations help to generate insights into the underlying biological mechanisms. And, this book is jam-packed with wonderful insights into an array of biology issues. The penultimate chapter deals with the question of life on other planets. While not dealing directly with mathematics, Stewart explains that the possibility of alien life does not necessarily require a planetary system "just like the Earth". A wide range of planetary conditions may be able to foster life, and we should not jump to hasty conclusions based on the conditions that seem "normal" to us on Earth....more

Benoit Mandelbrot is the inventor of the mathematical concept of fractals. His earlier book The Fractal Geometry of Nature was a truly groundbreakingBenoit Mandelbrot is the inventor of the mathematical concept of fractals. His earlier book The Fractal Geometry of Nature was a truly groundbreaking book about fractals and how they are seen in nature. In The Misbehavior of Markets he turns his attention to the application of fractal concepts to markets. Mandelbrot shows that price fluctuations: 1) are not independent from one time period to the next 2) appear to be the same, regardless of the time scale involved (hours/days/months/years) 3) do not obey a Gaussian (normal bell-like) distribution, but instead follow a power-law distribution. These characteristics are exactly the opposite of the assumptions that are normally used in financial circles. As a result, most financial models severely under-estimate financial risk. Most financial models use certain parameters (like the beta factor) that purport to measure price volatility. Mandelbrot shows that many of these parameters are worse than useless; they are so wrong, they are dangerous and can lead to world-wide financial ruin.

This book is also somewhat of a biography; Mandelbrot details some of the fascinating aspects of his life, and that of his parents. One of the reasons contributing to his move from France to the U.S. is the disdain of French mathematicians to applied research. The only problem with this book is that Mandelbrot writes in a tone that is too strident for my taste. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in applied mathematics or finance.

This is the type of book I like best; the author, Stuart Kauffman, describes his own research into a new field called "complexity theory". Kauffman buThis is the type of book I like best; the author, Stuart Kauffman, describes his own research into a new field called "complexity theory". Kauffman builds simulations of lattice networks, and explores their characteristics. He shows how the simulations are analogous to chemicals combining, and may shed light on the origin of life. He claims that the simulations show that the origin of life may not have been an improbable accident, but instead may have been almost inevitable. Auto-catalytic reactions may have driven chemicals to combine and "reproduce". In other simulations, Kauffman shows how evolution through natural selection may not have depended on improbable, random mutations. Genes may be "self-organized" in such a way as to make genetic improvements a very likely occurrence. Coevolution is also discussed in some detail.

Kauffman also shows the parallels between biological and technological evolution. These parallels are quite impressive. The concepts are amazingly thought-provoking.

This is not an easy-to-read book; it is filled with simple mathematics, though there are very few equations. Sometimes I had to read a page twice to really understand it, but was well worth the effort. Interestingly, the writing style alternates between straightforward technical writing, and lyrical. This alternation gives the book a nice change of pace....more

I think this is the first book about Bayes' theorem and its applications, for the general reader. The book does not explicitly state the theorem as aI think this is the first book about Bayes' theorem and its applications, for the general reader. The book does not explicitly state the theorem as a mathematical formula, until the second appendix. However, the general idea is described, as well the general ideas behind it. The history of the theorem is described in some detail.

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 known--it is often an educated, but subjective guess. Mathematicians and statisticians don't like guesses, they don't like subjectivity. As a result, the application of Bayes theorem was often in disrepute. But--despite the subjectivity, Bayes theorem usually works--and works very well! It was used most effectively during World War II, in the decryption of the Enigma code. It was also used effectively in anti-submarine warfare during the war, and in search and rescue operations. But its usage was classified, and as a result its power was hidden from statisticians.

In the past 20 years, Bayes theorem has really taken hold. I personally use it daily in my work, where it is extremely useful. I vaguely remember reading about the controversies surrounding it. Now, at long last, you can learn about the true nature of the controversies in this enjoyable book....more

The first half of this book goes into some depth concerning Bertrand Russell's and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, and then the work of Kurt Godel.The first half of this book goes into some depth concerning Bertrand Russell's and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, and then the work of Kurt Godel. Hofstadter has an interesting description and point of view about this area. But the later portions of the book become steeped in philosophy, and quite frankly, became a bit boring. On the other hand, I had read his book Godel, Escher, Bach long ago, and found it to be excellent....more

This is a short book--a fast and easy read. The story describes how a good mathematician sank into an obsession that swallowed up his life. The storytThis is a short book--a fast and easy read. The story describes how a good mathematician sank into an obsession that swallowed up his life. The storyteller's mathematician friend, Sammy, mentions that the trail of a mathematical quest will be littered with intermediate, published results on a variety of topics. So, why didn't Uncle Petros publish his intermediate--but important--results?

Interestingly, I do not remember another novel with as many footnotes as this one! (Actually, I don't remember any novels with an author's footnotes.)...more

The concept behind this book is wonderful. Scientists and science fiction authors discuss the relationships between science and stories.

In practice, hThe concept behind this book is wonderful. Scientists and science fiction authors discuss the relationships between science and stories.

In practice, however, much of the book was boring. Some of the essays--the more philosophical ones--simply didn't make any sense to me. Many pages are devoted to a telling of the story of the "Three Little Pigs"; a side-by-side telling via cartoons and mathematical symbology, as if it were some sort of mathematical proof. I didn't really see the point of this.

The most interesting essay is about Einstein and how his theories of relativity were accepted--or not. At one point, Einstein suddenly became world famous, and he went on a world tour. Many critics sprang up; they didn't understand the concepts, and they thought that his theories were "pure math" or simply a new theoretical philosophy that didn't have any practical application or corroboration with experiment.

This book had been on my wishlist for years. Some of the authors are among my favorite science fiction authors. But the fact is, I'm not happy I read it....more

This wonderful collection of essays on mathematics is quite entertaining. I especially loved the essays on the Strasbourg Cathedral clock, the StatistThis wonderful collection of essays on mathematics is quite entertaining. I especially loved the essays on the Strasbourg Cathedral clock, the Statistics of Deadly Quarrels, and the Naming Names. The author does not simply "do scholarly research" to come up with his essays. For some of his essays, he actually performs a variety of mathematical calculations, computer simulations, and analyses to understand the topics....more

Here is my dilemma; I truly did enjoy reading this book. Every page of it. But the author seems to be schizophrenic. In the beginning of the book BaraHere is my dilemma; I truly did enjoy reading this book. Every page of it. But the author seems to be schizophrenic. In the beginning of the book Barabasi shows that so many seemingly random events behave, not as from a Poisson distribution, but obey a power law distribution, instead. This is very interesting; so many events in our lives and in nature, occur in bursts, rather than at random intervals in time.

But then the author starts a historical outline of a revolution attempt that occurred in Hungary, in the year 1514. He alternates sections between contemporary life; to-do lists, productivity, homeland security, the Internet--and a story that occurred 500 years ago. Fully a third of the book is dedicated to this intriguing story. But at the end of the book, there is no credible linkage between the theme of the Hungarian revolution attempt and the main theme of the book. Well, the author attempts to correlate the 16th-century predictions of Telgedi with the modern problem of predicting future events. It just doesn't tie together.

Barabasi bemoans the fact that predicting future events is difficult because human dynamics are so complex. That would have sounded reasonable to me a month ago, but at the same time I was reading this book, I was also reading "The Predictioneer's Game" by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita. De Mesquita claims (and backs up his claims) that using game theory, he can predict future political, economic, diplomatic, judicial, and commercial events with 90% accuracy. But Barabasi makes no reference to the game theory approach--he does not even mention it to refute its credibility.

I like Barabasi's writing style--I gave his previous book, "Linked" a 5-star rating. But "Bursts" just makes me feel like a pinball....more