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Chances Are: Adventures in Probability

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A layman’s journey into the realm of probability—from poker to politics, weather to war, Monte Carlo to mortality

We search for certainty, but find only likelihood. All things are possible, only one thing actually happens; everything else is in the realm of probability. The twin disciplines of probability and statistics underpin every modern science and sketch the shape of all purposeful group activity— politics, economics, medicine, law, sports—giving humans a handle on the essential uncertainty of their existence. Yet while we are all aware of the hard facts, most of us still refuse to take account of probability—preferring to drive, not fly; buying into market blips; smoking cigarettes; denying we will ever age.

There are some people, though—gamblers, risk buyers, forensic experts, doctors, strategists— who find probability’s mass of incomplete uncertainties delightful and revelatory. Chances Are is their story. Combining philosophical and historical background with portraits of the men and women who command the forces of probability, this engaging, wide-ranging, and clearly written volume will be welcomed not only by the proven audiences for popular books like E=MC2 and The Golden Ratio but by anyone interested in the workings of fate.

About the Author

Michael Kaplan studied European history at Harvard and Oxford. After a stint as producer/director at WGBH, he has been an award-winning writer and filmmaker working abroad for clients including governments, corporations, museums, and charities.

Ellen Kaplan trained as a classical archaeologist and has taught math, biology, Greek, Latin, and history. She and her husband, Robert, run the Math Circle, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to joyous participatory learning, and are the authors of The Art of the Infinite.

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