Ten Great Ideas About Chance: A Review

Unfortunately Ten Great Ideas About Chance is a disappointment.

The central idea of the book is to look at ten key mathematical-philosophical ideas in probability and, using the history of the idea, explain what they are about and why they matter.

It’s not that the book doesn’t have some very interesting material, but it fails to hit its target over and over again and, unfortunately, even contains some obvious and – presumably – not so obvious errors.

This review states it so much better than I can, so here is an extract:

The chapters are invariably a mix of
1. a trivial example that does not penetrate enough the intended topic because it contains too much of the familiar and too little of the topic that’s being introduced
2. references to original texts that are impenetrable nineteenth century translations into English from eighteenth century originals written in French or German or Latin
3. statements of complex results that would take fifty pages to arrive at if the proofs were shown
4. cheerleading

So what I re-lived by reading this book is my Freshman Year nightmare math class where three times a week I’d follow the first five minutes of the lecture only to subsequently find myself furiously copying from the board so I can read my lecture notes later at home and try to make sense of them.