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Probability Theory: The Logic of Science Hardcover – Jun 9 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 753 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Annotated. edition (June 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521592712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521592710
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 3.9 x 24.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Hardcover
Reading this book is an exhilarating intellectual adventure. I found that it shed light on many mysteries and answered questions that had long troubled me. It contains the clearest exposition of the fundamentals of probability theory that I have ever encountered, and its chatty style is a pleasure to read. Jaynes the teacher collaborates fully with Jaynes the scientist in this book, and at times you feel as if the author is standing before you at the blackboard, chalk in hand, giving you a private lesson. Jaynes's advice on avoiding errors in the application of probability theory -- reinforced in many examples throughout the book -- is by itself well worth the price of the book.
If you deal at all with probability theory, statistics, data analysis, pattern recognition, automated diagnosis -- in short, any form of reasoning from inconclusive or uncertain information -- you need to read this book. It will give you new perspectives on these problems.
The downside to the book is that Jaynes died before he had a chance to finish it, and the editor, although capable and qualified to fill in the missing pieces, was understandably unwilling to inject himself into Jaynes's book. One result is that the quality of exposition suffers in some of the later chapters; furthermore, the author is not in a position to issue errata to correct various minor errors. Volunteer efforts are underway to remedy these problems -- those who buy the book may want to visit the "Unofficial Errata and Commentary" website for it, or check out the etjaynesstudy mailing list at Yahoo groups.
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Format: Hardcover
Outline
This book develops probability theory from first principles as an extension of deductive logic. In deductive logic, propositions can have only three possible truth values: true, false, and irremediable uncertainty. Therefore, the goal of the book is to describe a consistent extended logic that assigns real numbers to the plausibility of propositions. The requirements for such a system are derived from five simple desiderata, which serve as the postulates of this theory - and it turns out that *any* such system is equivalent to probability theory, to within a monotonic transformation.
Probability theory is then developed through applications to problems which grow more and more complex. The author demonstrates its use in direct sampling problems and so-called inverse problems, aka Bayesian probability. He derives procedures for multiple hypothesis testing, parameter estimation, and significance testing, and shows that although there are close connections between probability and frequency of occurrence in a large number of trials, no probability is *simply* a frequency.
Following this, the author presents solutions to the problem of assigning prior probabilities, and develops decision theory as an adjunct to probability theory. The author then compares and contrasts mainstream or "orthodox" statistical theory with probability theory as extended logic, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) finds severe deficiencies in the orthodox methods. The final chapters concern even more advanced applications.
Math Requirements
Readers should be well versed in simple calculus and multivariate calculus; some familiarity with convolution integrals and finite combinatorics is also an asset, but not essential.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book before it was published; I downloaded it from a WU website. It has been of immense use to me in my career, it is a very practical book. Other reviews that say Dr. Jaynes' ideas are at odds with traditional measure theoretic probability are mistaken. Dr. Jaynes is a true Baysian. A Baysian is one who believes that probabilities do not model serendipity in nature, but do model subjective certainty. The Bayesian concept of probability is epistomological, i.e. the uncertainty is in our minds, not in objective reality. Traditional probability takes the reverse view: probabilities model unpredictable events, they are a model of objective reality like any science, i.e. probabilities are ontological. The trick is to realize the two are not mutually exclusive! There can be true ontological randomness in nature, and our minds can have uncertainty from incomplete knowledge as well. Probability theory as a branch of mathematics makes no claim what it models. The beauty is that probabiltity distributions integrate the two seamlessly. Thus, it is perfectly valid to put a distribution on an unknown parameter, epistomologically unknown, and derive that distribution from an experiment with, presumably, ontological randomness. Dr. Jaynes' book is well worth reading for the many case studies he presents. His background as a physicist is key to understanding some of the esoteric philisophical points.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has been on the web in unfinished form for a number of years and has shaped my scientific thinking more than any other book. I believe it constitutes one of the most important scientific texts of the last hundred years. It convincingly shows that "statistics", "statistical inference", "Bayesian inference", "probability theory", "maximum entropy methods" , and "statistical mechanics" are all parts of a large coherent theory that is the unique consistent extension of logic to propositions that have degrees of plausibility attached to them. This is already a theoretical accomplishment of epic proportions. But in addition, the book shows how one actually solves real world problems within this frame work, and in doing so shows what a vastly wider array of problems is addressable within this frame work than in any of the forementioned particular fields.
If you work in any field where on needs to "reason with incomplete information" this book is invaluable.
As others have already mentioned, Jaynes never finished this book. The editor decided to "fill in" the missing parts by putting excercises that, when finished by the reader, provide what (so the editor guesses) Jaynes left out. I find this solution a bit disappointing. The excercises don't take away the impression that holes are left in the text. It would have been better if the editor had written the missing parts and then printed those in different font so as to indicate that these parts were not written by Jaynes. Better still would have been if the editor had invited researchers that are intimately familiar with Jaynes' work and the topic of each of the missing pieces to submit text for the missing pieces.
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