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How You're Being Fooled by the Numbers

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 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.

Customer Reviews

Awesome. Fascinating, frightening and infuriating.

Another great book by Seife. He covers the numerous ways that politicians, advertisers and other miscreants mislead and deceive us.

The examples he uses to illustrate the deceptions are fascinating. The effects on us - ordinary citizens - are frightening. And the contempt with which justice and democracy are treated is infuriating.

This book will help you - even those with no mathematical skills - understand how to read and interpret the numbers used around us.

View in iTunes
  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Mathematics
  • Published: Sep 23, 2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings