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Mathematics

Hal Harris's picture

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Sun, 07/01/2007 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

Like Malcolm Gladwell s Tipping Point , Nassim Taleb s Black Swan threatens to become a permanent part of the lexicon. In this best-selling book, he makes the argument that evolution has prepared us to over-emphasize continuous, Gaussian relationships because they occur much more frequently than do rare but momentous, unpredictable events.

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A Mathematician at the Ballpark: Odds and Probabilities for Baseball Fans

Sun, 05/01/2005 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

Back in the 1960's, I was captivated by "Percentage Baseball" by Earnshaw Cook. Now long out of print and a collector's item, this book was a forerunner of the "science" of SABRmetrics (after the Society for American Baseball Research) that refers to the scientific (statistical) evaluation of the game.

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The Odds of That

Thu, 08/01/2002 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

When nearly a dozen scientists, all in some way associated with research on biotechnology, die within a year of the 9/11 attacks, can it be coincidence? Yes, says Lisa Belkin, author of this excellent article on one of the constants of pseudoscience, the attribution of "cause" to random events.

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The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer

Fri, 09/01/2000 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

I have to admit that I haven't finished reading this book. With over six hundred, large-format pages and relatively small type, it would probably not have made "Hal's Picks" until next year if I had waited until I had completed it. However, it is entirely possible to dip in for a chapter here and a chapter there.

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Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

Wed, 12/01/1999 - 00:00 -- Hal Harris

In about 1637, a French mathematical genius named Pierre de Fermat wrote in the margin of his copy of Arithmetica by Pythagorus, that he could prove that there were no solutions to the simple variation on Pythagorus' Theorem, az + bz = czwhen a, b, and c are integers and z is larger than two.

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How to Predict Everything

Thu, 07/01/1999 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

Physicist J. Richard Gott of Princeton published a provocative article in Nature back in 1993, that described a simple method for the estimation of the likely lifetime of "things" on the basis solely of the length of their existence to date.

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Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Fri, 05/01/1998 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

This is the third volume in a series by Edward Tufte (the others are "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", and "Envisioning Information"). All three are beautifully crafted books that are a delight to read and to handle. The most recent one brings the reader's attention to the use of graphics, narrative, and numbers to convey motion, process, mechanism, cause and effect.

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