A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper Paperback – Sep 26 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
Math professor Paulos's irreverent investigation of the often faulty use of statistics and fact in newspaper articles.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
... this book should be mandatory reading for every journalist - as well as the readers, viewers and former tutors they supposedly serve. -- Robert Matthews, New Scientist, 1995
A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper is irresistible. -- Rudy Rucker, Scientific American, 1995
Although the combination of math and newspapers sounds uniquely unappetizing, John Allen Paulos creates a truly thought- provoking book from that mixture. -- USA Today, Best Bet, 1995
But the dirty secret about the media's contribution to American "Innumeracy," first examined in a delightful book by that title by John Allen Paulos, is about to be revealed in his sequel, "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. -- Max Frankel, New York Times, 1995
Even better, Paulos' wit and humor - admirably displayed in Innumeracy - are in top form. His irreverent and pointed comments entertain as well as educate. Though Paulos writes about a bewildering number of topics, he has something fresh and interesting to say about each. -- Charles Seife, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1995
In his new book, the mathematician John Allen Paulos continues his witty crusade against mathematical illiteracy ...... Mr. Paulos's little essay explaining the Banzhaf power index and how it relates to Lani Guinier's ideas about empowering minorities is itself worth the price of the book. -- Richard Bernstein, New York Times, 1995
It would be great to have John Allen Paulos living next door. Every morning when you read the paper and came across some story that didn't seem quite right - that had the faint odor of illogic hovering about it - you could just lean out the window and shout, "Jack! Get the hell over here!"..... Paulos, who wrote the bestseller Innumeracy (the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy), has now written a fun, spunky, wise little book that would be helpful to both the consumers of the news and its purveyors. -- Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, 1995
Paulos uses his considerable talents and a breezy style to discuss many ways to apply simple, or at least simply explained, mathematics and logic to analyze the contents of the newspaper. ... the book is a compendium of unusually sound advice, which, if widely read and understood, could improve a lot more for us than the way we read the newspaper. -- Journal of the American Medical Association, 1995
This book will bring a great deal of pleasure to many - as it did to the reviewer. It is full of fun, full of information, full of insights. -- Peter Hilton, American mathematics Monthly, 1995
This is press criticism, but not of the usual kind .... This is press criticism of the sort that George Orwell had in mind when he observed that what's important isn't news, and what's news isn't important. ..... This is a subversive book. Paulos argues that the world is so complex that it cannot be accurately described, much less manipulated. ...... a wise and thoughtful book, which skewers much of what everyone knows to be true. -- Lee Dembart, Los Angeles Times, 1995
Top Customer Reviews
In the introduction, Professor Paulos reveals a long and abiding love for newspapers. And he reads a lot of them. He subscribes to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times, skims the Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Daily News, and occasionally looks at USA Today (he likes weather maps in color on occasion), the Washington Post, the suburban Ambler Gazette, the Bar Harbor Times, the local paper of any city he is in, and the tabloids.
This knowledge is reflected in the book's structure. There are four sections, reflecting the typical four section format of many weekday papers.Read more ›
There are some good lessons scattered throughout this book, but as a previous reviewer said, it does tend to be scattered and lacking any common thread. Joel Best's "Damned Lies and Statistics" is a much better read.
Consider the section entitled "Darts Trounce the Pros: Luck and the Stock Market," where stocks were picked by throwing darts and the results compared to that of the "pros." Over a six-month period, the choices performed by the random process has a 42 percent gain as opposed to the Dow Jones rate of 8 percent and the experts rate of 2.2 percent. As time went on, the gains tended to move toward equality, but the reality is that those stocks picked by market watchers generally match the behavior of a random selection. In other words, money spent on "expert" stock advice is essentially wasted, with the obvious exception of insider trading.
Economic forecasts are also subjected to a similar investigation. In a convoluted world economy, where the behavior is essentially chaotic, it is impossible to predict what the future behavior will be. Recently, the executive and legislative branches of the U. S. government have been pounding each other over their separate long term predictions of the behavior of the U.S. economy. Such "knowledge" is being used in the attempt to balance the budget of the U.S. federal government.Read more ›
Using actual stories covered in the various sections of the newspaper, Paulos explains mathematical concepts that should have been considered by the reporter. He says that, in addition to the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, reporters should ask how many, how does that quantity compare with other quantities, are we looking at the right categories and relationships, are the statistics derived from a random sample or a collection of anecdotes...
One example Paulos provides shows how readers can be misled by numbers, especially if the reporter uses the numbers provided by a biased source. In a story about contamination, suppose a pint of a toxic chemical were spilled in the ocean and the chemical becomes evenly dispersed around the globe. Seems like a minuscule amount of contamination, and not worth worrying about. But, if the ocean water were tested, it would show almost 6,000 molecules of that toxic chemical in a pint of water. Now, it looks like a reason to panic.
Although not an easy read, most of the math is simply and entertainingly presented, and occasional dull passages are short and easily skipped.
Most recent customer reviews
Well worth the read. It's not preachy like Innumeracy, it entertainingly goes through the ways that news sources screw up their numbers.Published on May 1 2003 by Collin Campbell
This book had a few good examples of how numbers are used and abused in the media. The book was genenrally good when it kept its discussion to narrowly defined cases (the... Read morePublished on May 15 2002
I found this book numbingly dull. After about 40 pages I lost any hope of maintaining the one-minded devotion to extract the interesting concepts buried within.Published on May 12 2002 by nytexano
A funny, instructional tour of the newspaper as seen by a mathematician. Each section starts out with a headline and a brief sketch of a news story and then Paulos discusses in a... Read morePublished on May 17 2001
This is a clever and useful book about the foibles in the media's use of statistics, with short primers on complexity, psychology, and probability theory -- and an occasional lapse... Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2001 by David Gibson
There seem to be very few actual newspaper examples, and too many contrived discussions. Comes across as preaching at the reader, but without enough facts to back up what he says,... Read morePublished on Dec 22 2000 by Rich Fullerton
I truly enjoyed this book, and skim it again every summer.
This work is like chatting with an extremely thoughtful friend who takes nothing for granted, and examines every... Read more
All journalists should be encouraged to read this witty book as well as other members of the chattering classes. Read morePublished on Aug. 4 2000
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