The Math and Myth of Coincidence

Book - 2016
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Publisher: New York : Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, / [2016]
ISBN: 9780465060955
Branch Call Number: 514.2 Mazu
Characteristics: viii, 273 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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AndreaG_KCMO Mar 02, 2020

Mazur's introduction prompted me to try this book. In clear, insightful prose, he explores the nuances of what "coincidence" means and how it captures our imaginations. Part One maintains that writing style while narrating a handful of first- and second-hand stories about such flukes. In the second and third sections, Mazur categorizes his flukes and begins unraveling the mathematics of determining their odds. Predictably, I found myself re-reading page after page of the explanations trying to achieve reasonable understanding of the concepts. Eventually I just read to avoid getting stuck. Part Four, the application of concepts to the original stories, interested me enough to finish the book. Given my lack of natural aptitude, it was not easy.

Sep 26, 2018

A fun and clearly written introduction and overview coincidence for a very broad audience. For a book about mathematics, there is surprisingly very little math - in the sense of figures - contained with it. Different sorts of coincidences are considered and analyzed, and the historical development of the ideas as well as many anecdotes of coincidences are told to the reader. If there is one take-away from the book (apart from what the author intended, which is that whatever is extremely unlikely to happen, but which must happen, eventually will happen) is that one should take more chances, at least for those things where the downside is small and the upside great, even if it violates prudential norms from an expected utility calculation (so I'll be buying lottery tickets now). Has longish notes section, a decent (but a bit short) index, but no further reading guide or bibliography.


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