Book Review – Chance, by Amir D Aczel

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Book Review – Chance, by Amir D Aczel

Chance and probability play a part in many aspects of our everyday lives. Simple examples include playing the lottery to win millions of dollars and the chance that you will have inclement weather tomorrow. However, Amir D. Aczel, author of Chance: A Guide to Gambling, Love, the Stock Market, and Just About Everything Else shows that chance and probability can be taken to a whole different, much more interesting level.

Aczel’s book is only 160 pages long, making it an easy read without much numerical theory and complicated mathematical equations. The book looks like a two-of-hearts from a simple deck of cards, showing that the game of cards is an obvious place for chance to come into play. The cover is well designed; it is bright and hard to miss. Aczel gives his readers simple equations to prove his points and the points of other mathematicians and statisticians who have studied numbers and contributed to this book allowing people from any background to read this book and understand quite well.

Some of the many laws and theories Amir Aczel covers are the Law of Unions, dependence and independence, complements and unions of independent events, Pascal’s Triangle, and the Inspection Paradox. All laws and theories discussed are kept in simple terms and proven with well thought-out examples. I will not be discussing the dozens of equations and examples from the book in this article, but I will discuss two of the most interesting theories that statisticians have proved which Aczel takes the time to discuss in the book.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter in this book is titled, “How to Succeed in Love (Find the Best Apartment, or Adopt the Best Puppy”.) Everyone is probably interested in how to find the right girl or guy, the best-behaved puppy, or even find a house that is not in a bad area with bad neighbors. Thanks to Aczel, we can all now make these decisions that are so important in our lives using a simple idea. Statistics show that once you have sampled about 37 percent of the available population in your current life then you should settle with the next available person/object that is better than the previous ones. In relation to love, if you date 37 percent of all the single males or females you know in your life, and then you proceed to find someone who makes you happier than all the previous 37 percent, you should settle! This seems simple and mildly comical, but this is science, not just some random theory.

Another interesting chapter deals with the probability that you will have the same birthday as someone else in your surroundings. The first part of this chapter states that in order for there to be a 50 percent probability of two people in a room having the same birthday, you take 1.2 times the square root of the number of possibilities to get your answer as a percentage out of 100. The second part of the chapter is basically the same but looks for a 95 percent possibility instead of a 50 percent possibility. The theory is the same except you multiply 1.6 times the square root of the number of possibilities to get your answer as a percentage out of 100. Aczel uses the example that if you multiply 1.2 times the square root of 365 (days in a year), you get an answer of about 23. This means that if there are 23 people in a room together, there is about a 50 percent chance that two people will have the same birthday. The results are surprising and very interesting.

Amir D. Aczel’s book may look simple and like a quick read upon inspection of the cover and first few pages, but there is much more to this book than meets the eye. Aczel will have you reading several portions of his book repeatedly just so you can ingrain some of the theories he mentions into your mind. The two ideas mentioned in this article have remained in my mind since reading the book twice and are great for conversation in the office or at a party. I recommend you take a day or two to read this book and you will be surprised how you will amaze your friends with your new found knowledge. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

Book Review – Chance, by Amir D Aczel

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