How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

Written by:
Jordan Ellenberg
Narrated by:
Jordan Ellenberg

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2014
13 hours 30 minutes
The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.

Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?

How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.

Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.
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Camille S.

If I'd been trying to read this book myself, I could picture myself losing the thread and giving up before I was even half-way through. However, listening to Dr. Ellenburg read it was quite a different experience. While I can say for sure that I didn't understand everything he said, somehow it was all (except the loopy election bit) very interesting. One thing that didn't all go over my head was the humor. It was neat how he found ways to poke fun at academics and make ordinary mortals feel that we count for a great deal ourselves. I look forward to listening to it again and, I hope, understanding a little bit more. Thank you for a work that's clearly intended to bridge the gap between you & us.

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Nathan K.

Not a great audio book, unless you are already familiar with a lot of math concepts.... Maybe it would be good along side a physical book. For me, everything seemed to run together into math is over my head.

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