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Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

This is a fascinating book about risk, the probability of risk in given situations, and how humans react to the idea of risk.  It takes as it’s basis three characters: Norm, a man who is average in every sense of the word, and calculates risk according to the statistics; Prudence, who worries incessantly and excessively about everything – for her, the worst case scenario is also the likeliest; and Kelvin, who is arrogant and irresponsible and seems happy to take risks in all aspects of his life.  These characters are placed in different settings, as the book explores the statistical chance of something bad happening, in relation to the public perception of risk.  For example, scary headlines that declare things like ‘Eating such-and-such every day leads to a 20% increase in your likelihood of getting cancer.’  Scary indeed, but the book shows what that 20% risk actually works out at.

The book is written in easy to understand language, and is often amusing.  It acknowledges that it’s all very well saying there’s a one in a million chance of a specific something bad happening, but that’s little comfort to the person that is that one in a million.  Nonetheless, I found it oddly reassuring to be able to understand why certain situations are so scary, yet when looked at objectively, they actually pose little real danger.

It explains how probability is calculated (and discusses the reliability – or not – of the numbers), and is full of interesting anecdotes.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book, on a fascinating subject.  Recommended.

(The Norm Chronicles website can be found here.)

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