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The Arithmetic of Life and Death

by

The Arithmetic of Life and Death Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

CHAPTER

1

The Probability That

You Would Be You

"What is the odds so long as the fire

of soul is kindled . . ."

--CHARLES DICKENS

Since some six billion people now occupy planet Earth, one could conclude

that human life is as common as dirt in Denmark. There is, however, some

evidence to the contrary. Gwendolyn Sharpe, anthropology student, and

daughter of a prominent Northwestern personality, is a good example.

Like every human being, Gwendolyn is a construction

of forty-six chromosomes. Twenty-three came from her mother, Cecilia, and

the other twenty-three came from her estranged father. Each of her parents

had forty-six chromosomes from which to choose, nicely organized in

twenty-three pairs. Through the miracle of natural selection, either one

of each chromosome pair from each of her parents could have been chosen

for production. The resulting twenty-three chromosomes from each parent

were then paired to make Gwendolyn's forty-six.

The odds that Gwen would get the exact twenty-three chromosomes that she

received from her mother were one-half times one-half times one-half times

one-half, a total of twenty-three times, or .5 to the twenty-third power.

That means that the probability that Cecilia would give Gwendolyn the

twenty-three chromosomes she got was about one in ten million

(10,000,000), which was less likely than winning the state lottery (about

one in seven million in Washington, although the odds are longer in some

states).

The odds that Gwen would get the twenty-three chromosomes she got from her

father were also about one

in ten million. So, the probability that Gwendolyn would be Gwendolyn was

about one in 100 trillion (one in 100,000,000,000,000). On any given day,

a win in the Washington state lottery would be around fourteen million

times more likely than a Gwendolyn Sharpe.

But that assumes the existence, union, and productive sex lives of Gwen's

mother and father. Gwendolyn's parents met at a small Pacific Northwest

university with a student population of 1,000 men and 1,000 women. Like so

many young women back then, Gwen's mother hoped to meet and marry the man

of her dreams before leaving college with a degree in accounting. Like so

many young men back then, Gwendolyn's father planned to practice a few

of the more physical rituals of marriage throughout the

six years it would take him to obtain an undergraduate de-

gree in political science. Correctly assuming, however, that Gwendolyn's

mother would inevitably prevail, the maximum probability of the productive

union of her parents was a one-in-a-thousand long shot, which lengthened

the odds of Gwendolyn's existence to about one in 100 quadrillion (1 in

100,000,000,000,000,000).

However, the odds of Gwendolyn's mother's being her mother were at least

one in 100 quadrillion, too. The probability that her father would be her

father was the same. So the odds of Gwendolyn's being Gwendolyn were

closer to one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. But that figure excludes

consideration that either parent might have been infertile, that either

might have been killed before conception, or that they might have divorced

before the moment of magic that produced Gwendolyn or any of her brothers.

Synopsis:

Finding the equation for life is the goal in an innovative new book that uses basic mathematics to calculate our next pay raise, a rise in the inflation rate, our family budget, and the national debt, among other numbers essential to the way we live. Originally published as The Arithmetic of Life. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.

Synopsis:

Whether you realize it or not, numbers are everywhere--and integral to almost every facet of your life . . . from your next raise in pay to the inevitable rise of inflation, your weekly family budget to your end of the national debt. And as George Shaffner amazingly reveals, there are discerning answers (and a great measure of comfort) in numbers. In The Arithmetic of Life, he applies the basic principles of mathematics--addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division--to some of the most profound and just plain puzzling questions of our time.

Illuminated with anecdotes, humor, and insight, each chapter explains a unique part of life that can be understood only through the magic of numbers. Whether it's an unconventional theory on why more things go wrong than right, a simple calculation of how much it will cost you to smoke for a lifetime, why crime (accumulatively) doesn't pay, or a glimpse into the probability of life after death, this enlightening and lucidly reasoned book will forever change the way you think about numbers--and the world around you.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307775740
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Subject:
Philosophy : Movements - Phenomenology
Author:
Shaffner, George
Subject:
Philosophy : Movements - Pragmatism
Subject:
Philosophy : Logic
Subject:
Conduct of life
Subject:
Mathematics
Subject:
Applied
Subject:
Phenomenology
Subject:
Recreations & Games
Subject:
Philosophy & Social Aspects
Subject:
Movements - Phenomenology
Subject:
Mathematics-Games and Puzzles
Subject:
Mathematics -- History.
Subject:
Mathematics-Popular Surveys and Recreational
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
20010501
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
220

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The Arithmetic of Life and Death
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Product details 220 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9780307775740 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Finding the equation for life is the goal in an innovative new book that uses basic mathematics to calculate our next pay raise, a rise in the inflation rate, our family budget, and the national debt, among other numbers essential to the way we live. Originally published as The Arithmetic of Life. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.
"Synopsis" by , Whether you realize it or not, numbers are everywhere--and integral to almost every facet of your life . . . from your next raise in pay to the inevitable rise of inflation, your weekly family budget to your end of the national debt. And as George Shaffner amazingly reveals, there are discerning answers (and a great measure of comfort) in numbers. In The Arithmetic of Life, he applies the basic principles of mathematics--addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division--to some of the most profound and just plain puzzling questions of our time.

Illuminated with anecdotes, humor, and insight, each chapter explains a unique part of life that can be understood only through the magic of numbers. Whether it's an unconventional theory on why more things go wrong than right, a simple calculation of how much it will cost you to smoke for a lifetime, why crime (accumulatively) doesn't pay, or a glimpse into the probability of life after death, this enlightening and lucidly reasoned book will forever change the way you think about numbers--and the world around you.

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