Ten Great Ideas about Chance – By Persi Diaconis & Brian Skyrms, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.


From Princeton University Press

This book straddles a tricky middle ground, given that it introduces topics from scratch and goes into some very specific details of them in a relatively few pages, before jumping onto the next. On starting to read it, I was skeptical of how this could possible work, but by the end of it I believe that I saw the real utility of a book like this. The audience is quite specific, but for them it will be a gem.

The book covers a huge range of ideas related to chance, from the underlying mathematics of probability, to the psychology of decision making, the physics of chaos and quantum mechanics, the problems inherent in induction and inference and much more besides.

The book is taken from a long-running course at Stanford which the authors taught for a number of years, and they have tried to condense down the most important aspects of it to a relatively light book.…

By | December 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Finding Fibonacci, by Keith Devlin – a review

This book was sent to me by the publisher as a review copy.

I have a terrible admission to make. I came to this book with a paltry knowledge of Fibonacci (Leonardo of Pisa). The knowledge that I thought that I had was quickly shown in fact to be incorrect, so I was largely starting with a blank slate (Fibonacci did not discover the Fibonacci sequence, nor would he be terribly happy to know that in the popular psyche, this is what he is famous for).

In fact, this book is not really about Fibonacci (Devlin has another book about him). This is a book about the writing of a book, and about Devlin’s process of uncovering the history and importance of what Fibonacci had accomplished. It is a book about the research of the history of mathematics, and as such, it is a lovely tale: one of fortuitous moments of discovery, and of frustrations of searching for manuscripts.…

By | April 28th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Group Theory in a Nutshell for Physicists, by Tony Zee – A review

I studied group theory for the first time around 15 years ago at the beginning of my PhD. There were six of us in the class, and I found it both a magical, as well as a mysterious subject. We had a great lecturer, but the way that the course was set up, and as a course designed for theoretical physicists, where the tools were more important than the construction of the tools, a lot of ideas were left as mysterious boxes where the right answers were guaranteed so long as the algorithm was correctly followed.

Tony Zee is known for his incredible ability to lead the student on a path from little knowledge, to an intuitive understanding of a topic in a seemingly painless process. His books are not necessarily the most technically rigorous (note that this doesn’t mean that they are wrong, but that the appropriate level of detail is chosen for the new learner such that the overarching ideas aren’t fogged in unnecessarily complication), but they are, in my opinion some of the best texts for taking a learner from nothing, to a working knowledge with which they can perform calculations that I’ve ever come across.…

By | September 11th, 2016|Book reviews, Reviews|1 Comment