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Chance, Mathematics and Probability
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Superforecasting: The Art and Science of PredictionSuperforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

by by Philip Tetlock (Author), Dan Gardner (Author)

"The techniques and habits of mind set out in this book are a gift to anyone who has to think about what the future might bring. In other words, to everyone." (Economist)

"Full of excellent advice – it is the best thing I have read on predictions . . . Superforecasting is an indispensable guide to this indispensable activity." (The Times)

The best way to know if an idea is right is to see if it predicts the future. But which ideas, which methods, which people have a track record of non-obvious predictions vindicated by the course of events? The answers will surprise you, and they have radical implications for politics, policy, journalism, education, and even epistemology – how we can best gain knowledge about the world.

"Experts are about as accurate as chimps when predicting the future". This tidbit, so often mentioned when discussing (or dismissing) expert opinion or predictions, originates from the research of Mr. Tetlock on Expert Political Judgement. A natural next step was figuring out if anyone could reliably answer questions about the not so distant future and the result was the Good Judgment Project. The main results are detailed in this book, there indeed exists a group of super-forecasters who manage to constantly out-predict the chimps and experts in the intelligence community.

The book describes some of the characteristics of a super-forecaster. Not surprisingly they are, in general, good with numbers and ingest a lot of information. They tend to be slow thinkers, in the sense of Kahneman, and at least in some cases not as much affected by cognitive biases. Super-forecasters, however, are not super-human. Forecasting is a skill that can be learnt or improved.

Paperback - 352 pages - Random House Books; 01 edition (7 April 2016)   £7.13
Kindle - 354 pages Cornerstone Digital; 01 edition (24 Sept. 2015)  £2.46
Audiobook - 9 hours 45 minutes  £16.44


How to Predict the UnpredictableHow to Predict the Unpredictable: The Art of Outsmarting Almost Everyone

by William Poundstone

Poundstone puts your money where his mouth is, with a set of betting systems. He describes the kinds of football games on which you might be able to beat bookmakers' odds, and advises on how to play the office Oscars pool. The mother of all betting systems, of course, is a stock-market investment strategy, and Poundstone offers one of those, too: a long-term plan based on price-to-earnings ratios and sitting out periods of volatility.

The most fascinating part of the book is a series of chapters in which Poundstone shows how sets of fraudulent numbers in made-up accounts or massaged expenses fall prey to the same kind of analysis. People overuse descending pairs (21, 43, 76), and over-avoid doubled digits (55, 88); they don't know that there are surprisingly uneven distributions of first and second digits in sets of numbers from disciplines including finance and sport statistics. For such reasons, there were good reasons to be suspicious of Enron's revenue figures and Bernie Madoff's investment returns long before those scandals broke.

Paperback - 304 pages - Profile Books (1st Jun 2015) £4.53
Kindle - 304 pages Oneworld Publications (9 April 2014) £4.99

Chancing it: The Laws of chance and How They Can Work for You

by Robert Matthews

The book Chancing It from Robert Matthews, one of the world's greatest science writers, is the Rothschild among all those many books on popular probability that appeared in the past years. Yes, the book contains highly interesting stories about coincidences, lotteries and casino games, and it gives many real-life cases that demonstrate the different facets of the laws of probability.

But, more importantly, the book explains clearly how to spot false scientific claims based on the use of dodgy statistics, and pays attention to statistical controversies that have rarely been discussed outside academia. I never saw explained in such an accessible way the misuse and overreliance on p-values in medical publications, the dangers of mindlessly applying the normal distribution to financial data, misunderstandings about correlations, etc. The book is a must for everyone who is interested in probability and statistics or who is professionally involved in these subjects. Highly recommended!

Paperback - 304 pages - Profile Books (19 Jan. 2017) £9.99
Kindle 304 pages - Profile Books (19 Jan. 2017)  £4.79

Probability Guide to GamblingProbability Guide to Gambling: The Mathematics of Dice, Slots, Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack, Poker, Lottery and Sport Bets
by Catalin Barboianu

This is probably the most useful book from Barboianu's serial of gambling maths. And is far superior than Packel's or even Thorpe's book, whose approach is mostly statistical. Gamblers may easily skip the maths sections and go directly to the odds table they need, due to a professional organization of the content.

The book contains much new and original material that has not been published previously and provides great coverage of probabilities for the following games of chance: Dice, Slots, Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack, Five Card Draw Poker, Texas Hold'em Poker, Lottery and Sport Bets.

It begins by explaining in simple terms the meaning of the concept of probability for the layman and goes on to become an enlightening journey through the mathematics of chance, randomness and risk. It then continues with the basics of discrete probability (definitions, properties, theorems and calculus formulas), combinatorics and counting arguments for those interested in the supporting mathematics.

These mathematic sections may be skipped by readers who do not have a background in mathematics; these readers can skip directly to the "Guide to Numerical Results" to pick the odds and recommendations they need for the desired gaming situation.

Paperback - 332 pages - Infarom (26 Aug 2006)  £10.99
No Knidle

How to Take a Penalty:
The Mathematical Curiosities of Sport

by Rob Eastaway, John Haigh

'An interesting read for even the most maths-phobic'. The Good book guide

Why might it help a penalty taker to look at a clock before he kicks the ball? Does winning the toss actually matter? And why should some people consider playing darts blindfold?

'How to Take a Penalty' takes a novel and intriguing look at sport, by exploring the mathematics behind the action. Discover, for instance, the surprising links between boxing and figure skating and between American football and cricket, the unusual location of England's earliest 'football' (in a parish church), the 26.5-degree 'trick' snooker shot, the pros and cons of being a consistent golfer, and the formula for winning a game of tennis.

With a subtitle 'the hidden mathematics of sport' I thought this might be dry, but in fact I read it in one sitting. The maths in here is accessible, and the harder stuff is stuck away in the appendix. Lots of sports included, though the most commonly referred to are football, cricket, tennis, rugby and athletics. Great chapter on darts. A very interesting read.

Hardcover - 192 pages (June 17, 2005)   £0.15
No Knidle

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street
by William Poundstone

This is an excellent book about the discovery of the Kelly formula that is unknown outside gambling. This story has three protagonists. Two of them were scientists working at Bell Labs: Claude Shannon, a genius polymath who developed information theory; and John Kelly, a maverick genius, who is directly responsible for the development of Kelly's formula. The third one is a brilliant MIT mathematician, Ed Thorp.

As the author states, Ed Thorp's genius consists in "...his continuous ability to discover new market inefficiencies ... as old ones played out." Ed Thorp closed this second fund in 2002. He is now independently exploring inefficiencies in gambling.

Claude Shannon amassed large wealth by recording one of the best investment records. His performance had little to do with Kelly's formula. Between 1966 and 1986, his record beat even Warren Buffet (28% to 27% respectively). Shannon strategy was similar to Buffet. Both their stock portfolios were concentrated, and held for the long term. Shannon achieved his record by holding mainly three stocks (Teledyne, Motorola, and HP). The difference between the two was that Shannon invested in technology because he understood it well, while Buffet did not.

John Kelly was a chain smoking, gun collecting brilliant physicist. He died young at 41 of an aneurysm. He worked closely with Shannon at Bell Labs. Besides being a charismatic character the author does not write much about his life compared to the other two.

Paperback - 386 pages Non Basic Stock Line (19 Sept. 2006)  £13.96
No Knidle

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
by Peter L. Bernstein

Bernstein has managed to take a subject which at first sight seems intensely boring, and has made it fascinating. Whether or not you have any interest in Risk, Statistics or Econimics, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It is quite simply a "Ripping Yarn". Its greatness lies in Bernstein's ability to tell the story in an accessible manner, without dumbing down the essential facts. Let me say it again: Read this book because it is a fascinating and well written story. The fact you will know a lot more about Risk at the end of it is an incidental, but very welcome, extra.

Paperback - 400 pages John Wiley & Sons; New Ed edition (29 Sept. 1998)   £11.33
Kindle - 383 pages Wiley; 1 edition (21 April 2008)  £10.76

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