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Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

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The bestselling author of "Zero" shows how mathematical misinformation pervades and shapes daily lives. "Proofiness," as Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side. Booklist (07/01/2010): *Starred Review* Following in the...

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The bestselling author of "Zero" shows how mathematical misinformation pervades and shapes daily lives. "Proofiness," as Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side.
Booklist (07/01/2010):
*Starred Review* Following in the footsteps of John Allen Paulos (Innumeracy, 1989) and Michael Shermer (Why People Believe Weird Things, 1997), Seife conducts a thorough investigation into why so many of us find it so easy to believe things that are patently ridiculous. Why, for example, does anyone take seriously the idea that some vaccines can cause autism, or that athletes who wear red have a competitive advantage? Its all comes down to numbers, the author argues, and the ways they can be used to make people believe things that are not true. He introduces us to the concepts of Potemkin numbers (deliberately deceptive statistics), disestimation (turning a number into a falsehood by taking it too literally), fruit-packing (a variety of deceptive techniques including cherry-picking data and comparing apples to oranges), and randumbness (finding causality in random events). He explores the many ways we misunderstand simple mathematical termsconfusing average, for example, with typicaland our natural tendency to treat numbers as truth and to see patterns where none exist. Despite its serious and frequently complex subject, the book is written in a light, often humorous tone (the title is a riff on Stephen Colberts truthiness, although proofiness has been in circulation for a while, with a variety of meanings). A delightful and remarkably revealing book that should be required reading for . . . well, for everyone.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

Publishers Weekly (07/12/2010):
Science journalist Seife (Zero) borrows the title of his book from comedian Stephen Colbert's well-known term "truthiness." Seife defines proofiness as "the art of using bogus mathematical arguments to prove something that you know in your heart is true--even when it's not." He presents a rogue's gallery of shady figures: Potemkin numbers, or fabricated statistics, such as that a million people attended a rally when the real number is much smaller; disestimation, which means taking estimated numbers too literally, such as census results; and fruit packing, and in particular cherry picking, in which people ignore data that doesn't support their point of view. A central chapter analyzes the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race and how the candidates manipulated the vote recount in a complex game of one-upmanship. Seife skewers much of the polling that is conducted continuously nowadays as well as the media's use of the numbers polls spit out. In an important chapter he dissects the justice system's often cynical misuse of data to obtain convictions. Seife presents the material in his typically outspoken style, producing a quick and enjoyable text for his wide base of readers. (Sept.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Marc Notes:
Includes bibliographical references and index.

Review Quotes:
"A delightful and remarkably revealing book that should be required reading for . . . well, for everyone."
-"Booklist" (Starred review)

Review Quotes:
"Sprightly written, despite its sobering message."
-"Kirkus Reviews"
"A delightful and remarkably revealing book that should be required reading for . . . well, for everyone."
-"Booklist" (Starred review)

Review Quotes:
.".. passionate ... This is more than a math book; it's an eye-opening civics lesson."
-"The New York Times Book Review"

"Seife's book is an admirable salvo against quantitative bamboozlement by the media and the government."
-"Boston Globe"

"Seife's coinages, humor, and curious tidbits keep readers engaged as the book gradually moves from a description of techniques to their practical application."
-"Philadelphia Inquirer"

"If Stephen Colbert had had time to write a math book, he surely would have written "Proofiness"."
-"Dallas Morning News"

"Sprightly written, despite its sobering message."
-"Kirkus Reviews"

"A delightful and remarkably revealing book that should be required reading for . . . well, for everyone."
-"Booklist" (Starred review)

Biographical Note:
Charles Seife, a journalist with "Science" magazine, has also written for "New Scientist," "Scientific American," "The Economist," "Wired UK," and "The Sciences," among many other publications. His previous titles include "Alpha & Omega" and "Zero." He received an MS in Probability Theory and Artificial Intelligence from Yale.

Table of Contents:
Introduction: Proofiness -- 1. Phony Facts, Phony Figures -- 2. Rorschach's Demon -- 3. Risky Business -- 4. Poll Cats -- 5. Electile Dysfunction -- 6. An Unfair Vote -- 7. Alternate Realities -- 8. Propaganda by the Numbers -- Acknowledgments -- Appendix A. Statistical Error -- Appendix B. Electronic Voting -- Appendix C. The Prosecutor's Fallacy -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Index.
The bestselling author of "Zero" shows how mathematical misinformation pervades-and shapes-our daily lives.
According to MSNBC, having a child makes you stupid. You actually lose IQ points. "Good Morning America" has announced that natural blondes will be extinct within two hundred years. Pundits estimated that there were more than a million demonstrators at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C., even though roughly sixty thousand were there. Numbers have peculiar powers-they can disarm skeptics, befuddle journalists, and hoodwink the public into believing almost anything.
"Proofiness," as Charles Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side. It is used to bring down beloved government officials and to appoint undeserving ones (both Democratic and Republican), to convict the innocent and acquit the guilty, to ruin our economy, and to fix the outcomes of future elections. This penetrating look at the intersection of math and society will appeal to readers of "Freakonomics" and the books of Malcolm Gladwell.

Review Citations:
Booklist 07/01/2010 pg. 15 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover) - *Starred Review
Publishers Weekly 07/12/2010 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Kirkus Reviews 07/01/2010 pg. 612 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Discover 10/01/2010 pg. 21 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
New York Times Book Review 09/19/2010 pg. 8 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
New York Times Book Review 09/26/2010 pg. 22 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Choice 01/01/2011 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Wilson Senior High Core Col 01/01/2011 pg. 261 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Wilson Public Library Catalog 01/01/2013 pg. 410 (EAN 9780670022168, Hardcover)
Contributor Bio: Seife, Charles
Charles Seife is the author of Decoding the Universe, Alpha & Omega, and Zero, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first nonfiction book and was named a New York Times Notable Book. An associate professor of journalism at New York University, he has written for Science magazine, New Scientist, Scientific American, The Economist, Wired, The Sciences and many other publications. He lives in New York City.

Categories: 758 Bathurst St | Mathematics | Science |

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