The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

Book - 2010
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Penguin Putnam

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.

Baker & Taylor
Demonstrates how mathematical misinformation pervades--and shapes--people's daily lives and is used to bring down government officials, convict the innocent, and ruin the U.S. economy.

& Taylor

The bestselling author of "Zero" shows how mathematical misinformation pervades-- and shapes-- our daily lives
The best-selling author of New York Times Notable Book Zero shows how mathematical misinformation pervades--and shapes--people's daily lives and is used to bring down government officials, convict the innocent, ruin the U.S. economy and more.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Viking, 2010
ISBN: 9780670022168
Branch Call Number: 510 Se42p
Characteristics: 295 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 22 cm


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Feb 05, 2015

This is a pretty good book, and the author explains those issues which affect most of us today. The other day, in a rare moment of factual reporting, NPR corrected an earlier, and fictional news report, where they had repeated a news release on a supposed study indicating that bilingualism [fluency in at least 2 languages] improved cognition. [Granted, best to know as many languages as possible, but on to the study] Turns out, 4 studies were conducted by the same researchers, 3 proved inconclusive, the 4th indicated possible cognitive improvement, but could never be replicated. Therefore, there was no scientifically proven improvement, yet this false result was reported widely as factual. This has become the norm today, just as when Monsanto doesn't like a negative outcome study on GMOs in a scientific journal, they purchase that journal and have the article officially retracted! That's not science! And that goes on too often today. Follow the money, be it the profit-making corporate vaccines [and some vaccinations, not all vaccinations, are important, and some studies indicate there is such a thing as too many vaccinations at too early an age], GMOs, or geoengineering. [Historically, when a bunch of establishment doctors are absolutely certain of a belief they share, the maverick has been proven right!]

Jun 29, 2013

Nine out of ten people who read this book will be more likely to never believe another statistic reported by any company, news program, doctor, or human than a person who does not read this book. There is proof that reading this book will cause, on average, a 34.56% rise in a person's blood pressure, which is believed to be brought on by realizing all the statistics cited in the world are total and complete bunk.

In all seriousness, I did enjoy this book and found it to be informative, especially the chapter on gerrymandering. Ironically, the appendices in the back were more interesting than some of the case studies in the chapters --- e.g. I did NOT need to read that many pages on the Franken v. Coleman election in Minnesota. I liked Seife's book Zero far more, but I found pieces of this book incredibly disruptive to my thinking about numbers and statistics, which makes me want to learn even MORE about numbers.

Jun 15, 2012

This was a very easy to read book about the misuse/abuse of numbers with particular focus on U.S. politics and journalistic practices. Written in an entertaining style the book provides an easy to understand explanation of many of the abused statistical analyses used by journalists, politicians, and interest groups. The examples Seife presents are fascinating in their detail and analysis. My only reservation about the book is that Seife occasionally seems to be somewhat of a "scare-monger" concerning the dangers of "proofiness" to democracy, but he nevertheless does always make you think about these issues.I strongly recommend the book, especially to those who may depend on statistics in their decision making or in deciding their stance on various issues.

Jul 26, 2011

Seife uses excellent examples of how the public are fooled by numbers.

It is when he delves into politics you see his true colors. He argues the cutting taxes doesn't increase gov. revenue. He neglected to(on purpose?) mention 2 counter arguments: that with lower rates, companies can afford to hire more people; and people don't go out of their way to avoid taxes if they are reasonable. The combination of those two definitely increase revenue as Reagan proved.

His 50 page rant against Justice Scalia regarding the death penalty. You can use all the fuzzy math(hasn't he just said beware of fuzzy math) to say that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Wrong. Has anyone come back from the dead to kill? Interred and deterred.

Half a star. Seife is just another vile leftist operative.

Apr 03, 2011

A must read for everyone who feels oneself independently minded.

Feb 27, 2011

Very good book with good clear explanations. His silly labels, such as "Proofiness", detract from what is a really solid piece of work. Highly recommended.

Jan 16, 2011

Starts off as a simple introductory level text, but as he discusses the US political and judicial systems he exposes the severe problems with statistical deception within the country

Dec 13, 2010

This is a very readable account of how statistics and numbers are misused to create the impression of truth to some statements that are anything but.

Seife goes from the shakey foundations of statements like Joe McCarthy's 205 communists in the State Department to the recount fights between Bush and Gore in Florida (and between Franken and Coleman in Minnesota in 2008).

Find out what "margin of error" really means!

Nov 06, 2010

This book should be required reading for every adult trying to navigate today's world of media-saturated "facts" and statistics, the author does an excellent job presenting his examples and ideas in layman's terms that will enlighten and entertain whether one is a fan of math and measurements or not.

Also, it is a refreshingly non-partisan approach for a contemporary U.S. political book that touches on the past decade, completely unsympathetic, for instance, to either Bush or Gore or any of the other highly contentious political figures of their ilk.

In brief, it's refreshingly sane enough to enjoy, smart enough to inform.


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