The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, Math Professor Jordan Ellenberg shows us how wrong this view is: Math touches everything we do, allowing us to see the hidden structures beneath the messy and chaotic surface of our daily lives. It’s a science of not being wrong, worked out through centuries of hard work and argument.
How early should you get to the airport? What do measures of “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? What’s the best way to get rich playing the lottery? How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind these and many more questions, using the mathematician’s methods and hard-won insights, minus the jargon. Ellenberg guides general readers along the way with rigor, humor and lively irreverence. Drawing from history as well as the latest theoretical developments, Ellenberg demonstrates that profound mathematical ideas are present whenever we reason, from the commonplace to the cosmic. It’s a dizzying spin through three thousand years of mathematics, encountering – among other things – baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, packing 24-dimensional spheres, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, the invention of calculus, and the existence of God. “Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it, the Math.” the Professor says.