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Will You Be Alive 10 Years from Now?: And Numerous Other Curious Questions in Probability

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

What are the chances of a game-show contestant finding a chicken in a box? Is the Hanukkah dreidel a fair game? Will you be alive ten years from now? These are just some of the one-of-a-kind probability puzzles that acclaimed popular math writer Paul Nahin offers in this lively and informative book.

Nahin brings probability to life with colorful and amusing historical anecdotes as well as an electrifying approach to solving puzzles that illustrates many of the techniques that mathematicians and scientists use to grapple with probability. He looks at classic puzzles from the past--from Galileo's dice-tossing problem to a disarming dice puzzle that would have astonished even Newton--and also includes a dozen challenge problems for you to tackle yourself, with complete solutions provided in the back of the book.

Nahin then presents twenty-five unusual probability puzzlers that you aren't likely to find anywhere else, and which range in difficulty from ones that are easy but clever to others that are technically intricate. Each problem is accompanied by an entertaining discussion of its background and solution, and is backed up by theory and computer simulations whenever possible in order to show how theory and computer experimentation can often work together on probability questions. All the MATLAB® Monte Carlo simulation codes needed to solve the problems computationally are included in the book.With his characteristic wit, audacity, and insight, Nahin demonstrates why seemingly simple probability problems can stump even the experts.

Review:

"Nahin (Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers), University of New Hampshire professor emeritus of electrical engineering, takes intrepid, mathematically minded readers on a fresh outing through the land of probability in this collection of puzzles, complete with MATLAB computer code. Nahin draws from the usual venues of probability problems, from gambling to sports, many utilizing Monte Carlo algorithms, which use random numbers to describe the behavior of dice and flipped coins. Nahin begins with the familiar 'Gambler's Ruin' problem, then branches out to consider the number of stops an elevator might make along its route, the likelihood of a proofreader missing errors, chance of false positives in medical tests, and whether the traditional dreidel game is really fair. The book isn't written for the casual browser; Nahin assumes readers will have a solid grounding in college-level mathematics as well as basic probability and some computer programming, if not knowledge of the MATLAB software package. For those who have the prerequisites, the author offers a pleasant collection of brain-teasers on which to test their mettle. 28 line illus., 22 tables." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

"Readers of this absorbing book will gain significant pleasure as well as a broadened understanding of the nuances of mathematics, along with a wonderful picture of how analytics and simulations complement each other. Nahin is a master at this. I love this book!"--Joseph Mazur, author of What's Luck Got to Do with It?: The History, Mathematics, and Psychology of the Gambler's Illusion

"This book will be of interest to anyone who loves the challenge and surprise inherent in probability theory, and who likes to tinker with their computer as a simulator. Nahin's style is easy and informal."--Julian Havil, author of The Irrationals: A Story of the Numbers You Can't Count On

About the Author

Paul J. Nahin is professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire. He is the best-selling author of many popular-math books, including "Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers", "The Logician and the Engineer", "Number-Crunching", "Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quilt", and "An Imaginary Tale" (all Princeton).

Table of Contents

Preface xv

Introduction: Classic Puzzles from the Past 1

I.1 A Gambling Puzzle of Gombaud and Pascal 1

I.2 Galileo's Dice Problem 3

I.3 Another Gombaud-Pascal Puzzle 4

I.4 Gambler's Ruin and De Moivre 6

I.5 Monte Carlo Simulation of Gambler's Ruin 10

I.6 Newton's Probability Problem 13

I.7 A Dice Problem That Would Have Surprised Newton 17

I.8 A Coin-Flipping Problem 18

I.9 Simpson's Paradox, Radio-Direction Finding, and the Spaghetti Problem 21

Challenge Problems 30

1 Breaking Sticks 36

1.1 The Problem 36

1.2 Theoretical Analysis 36

1.3 Computer Simulation 38

2 The Twins 42

2.1 The Problem 42

2.2 Theoretical Analysis 43

2.3 Computer Simulation 44

3 Steve's Elevator Problem 47

3.1 The Problem 47

3.2 Theoretical Analysis by Shane Henderson 48

3.3 Computer Simulation 51

4 Three Gambling Problems Newton Would "Probably" Have Liked 52

4.1 The Problems 52

4.2 Theoretical Analysis 1 54

4.3 Computer Simulation 1 55

4.4 Theoretical Analysis 2 57

4.5 Computer Simulation 2 58

4.6 Theoretical Analysis 3 59

5 Big Quotients--Part 1 62

5.1 The Problem 62

5.2 Theoretical Analysis 62

5.3 Computer Simulation 64

6 Two Ways to Proofread 66

6.1 The Problem 66

6.2 Theoretical Analysis 67

7 Chain Letters That Never End 70

7.1 The Problem 70

7.2 Theoretical Analysis 70

8 Bingo Befuddlement 74

8.1 The Problem 74

8.2 Computer Simulation 75

9 Is Dreidel Fair? 79

9.1 The Problem 79

9.2 Computer Simulation 80

10 Hollywood Thrills 83

10.1 The Problem 83

10.2 Theoretical Analysis 83

11 The Problem of the n-Liars 87

11.1 The Problem 87

11.2 Theoretical Analysis 87

11.3 Computer Simulation 89

12 The Inconvenience of a Law 90

12.1 The Problem 90

12.2 Theoretical Analysis 90

13 A Puzzle for When the Super Bowl is a Blowout 93

13.1 The Problem 93

13.2 Theoretical Analysis 94

14 Darts and Ballistic Missiles 96

14.1 The Problem 96

14.2 Theoretical Analysis 97

15 Blood Testing 103

15.1 The Problem 103

15.2 Theoretical Analysis 103

16 Big Quotients--Part 2 107

16.1 The Problem 107

16.2 Theoretical Analysis 107

17 To Test or Not to Test? 117

17.1 The Problem 117

17.2 Theoretical Analysis 119

18 Average Distances on a Square 126

18.1 The Problem(s) 126

18.2 Theoretical Analyses 127

18.3 Computer Simulations 136

19 When Will the Last One Fail? 139

19.1 The Problem 139

19.2 Theoretical Analyses 142

20 Who's Ahead? 147

20.1 The Problem 147

20.2 Theoretical Analysis 148

21 Plum Pudding 151

21.1 The Problem 151

21.2 Computer Simulation 152

21.3 Theoretical Analysis 153

22 Ping-Pong, Squash, and Difference Equations 156

22.1 Ping-Pong Math 156

22.2 Squash Math Is Harder! 161

23 Will You Be Alive 10 Years from Now? 168

23.1 The Problem 168

23.2 Theoretical Analysis 169

24 Chickens in Boxes 176

24.1 The Problem (and Some Warm-ups, Too) 176

24.2 Theoretical Analysis 180

25 Newcomb's Paradox 183

25.1 Some History 183

25.2 Decision Principles in Conflict 186

Challenge Problem Solutions 189

Technical Note on MATLAB®'s Random Number Generator 213

Acknowledgments 217

Index 219

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691156804
Author:
Nahin, Paul J
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Nahin, Paul J.
Subject:
Statistics
Subject:
Mathematics | Probability and Statistics
Subject:
Mathematics
Subject:
Popular science
Subject:
Cognitive science
Publication Date:
20131131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
28 line illus. 22 tables.
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

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Reference » Science Reference » General
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Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Probability and Statistics » Statistics

Will You Be Alive 10 Years from Now?: And Numerous Other Curious Questions in Probability New Hardcover
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Product details 256 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691156804 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Nahin (Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers), University of New Hampshire professor emeritus of electrical engineering, takes intrepid, mathematically minded readers on a fresh outing through the land of probability in this collection of puzzles, complete with MATLAB computer code. Nahin draws from the usual venues of probability problems, from gambling to sports, many utilizing Monte Carlo algorithms, which use random numbers to describe the behavior of dice and flipped coins. Nahin begins with the familiar 'Gambler's Ruin' problem, then branches out to consider the number of stops an elevator might make along its route, the likelihood of a proofreader missing errors, chance of false positives in medical tests, and whether the traditional dreidel game is really fair. The book isn't written for the casual browser; Nahin assumes readers will have a solid grounding in college-level mathematics as well as basic probability and some computer programming, if not knowledge of the MATLAB software package. For those who have the prerequisites, the author offers a pleasant collection of brain-teasers on which to test their mettle. 28 line illus., 22 tables." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , "Readers of this absorbing book will gain significant pleasure as well as a broadened understanding of the nuances of mathematics, along with a wonderful picture of how analytics and simulations complement each other. Nahin is a master at this. I love this book!"--Joseph Mazur, author of What's Luck Got to Do with It?: The History, Mathematics, and Psychology of the Gambler's Illusion

"This book will be of interest to anyone who loves the challenge and surprise inherent in probability theory, and who likes to tinker with their computer as a simulator. Nahin's style is easy and informal."--Julian Havil, author of The Irrationals: A Story of the Numbers You Can't Count On

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