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The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives | [Leonard Mlodinow]

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

In this irreverent and illuminating audiobook, acclaimed writer and scientist Leonard Mlodinow shows us how randomness, chance, and probability reveal a tremendous amount about our daily lives, and how we misunderstand the significance of everything from a casual conversation to a major financial setback. As a result, successes and failures in life are often attributed to clear and obvious causes, when in actuality they are more profoundly influenced by chance.
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Publisher's Summary

In this irreverent and illuminating audiobook, acclaimed writer and scientist Leonard Mlodinow shows us how randomness, chance, and probability reveal a tremendous amount about our daily lives, and how we misunderstand the significance of everything from a casual conversation to a major financial setback. As a result, successes and failures in life are often attributed to clear and obvious causes, when in actuality they are more profoundly influenced by chance.

The rise and fall of your favorite movie star or the most reviled CEO - in fact, all our destinies - reflects chance as much as planning and innate abilities. Even Roger Maris, who beat Babe Ruth's single season home-run record, was in all likelihood not great but just lucky.

How could it have happened that a wine was given five out of five stars by one journal and called the worst wine of the decade by another? Wine ratings, school grades, political polls, and many other things in daily life are less reliable than we believe. By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives fresh insight into what is really meaningful and how we can make decisions based on a deeper truth. From the classroom to the courtroom, from financial markets to supermarkets, from the doctor's office to the Oval Office, Mlodinow's insights will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

Offering listeners not only a tour of randomness, chance and probability but also a new way of looking at the world, this original, unexpected journey reminds us that much in our lives is about as predictable as the steps of a stumbling man afresh from a night at a bar.

©2008 Leonard Mlodinow; (P)2008 Gildan Media Corp

What the Critics Say

"A wonderful guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives." (Stephen Hawking)
"If you're strong enough to have some of your favorite assumptions challenged, please listen to The Drunkard's Walk....a history, explanation, and exaltation of probability theory....The results are mind-bending." (Fortune)

What Members Say

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3.8 (2560 )
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  •  
    Chief Break Everything Bethesda, MD, United States 01-12-12
    Chief Break Everything Bethesda, MD, United States 01-12-12
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    "Never would have thought I'd like a book on math"

    As someone who has never liked math or found it particularly applicable to my own daily life, I wish I had read this book a long time ago. Not only did it clarify some of the concepts of probability and statistics that never really made sense to me, it also planted seeds of interest in fields of study I'd never heard of, such as forensic statistics. Mlodinow does a fantastic job of exploring the balance between order and randomness in popular arenas like Hollywood and the sports world, and somehow manages to make the history of these branches of mathematics interesting and humorous. I plan to revisit this book in the future to see whether its lessons will hold a different meaning at a different point in my life and in the world.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Theodore Mesa, AZ, United States 11-09-11
    Theodore Mesa, AZ, United States 11-09-11 Member Since 2003

    I'm not much of a reader but I am a great listener. I like to listen to an audiobook before I decide its worth buying the book in print.

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    "You really need to be in a student mode"

    It can be a hard listen but it still has a good message if you can decipher it. Hint its in the main explanation of what the books about. You really need an analytic mind or be in the mood to follow the scientific explanations he gives.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mohamed Dubai, United Arab Emirates 10-29-11
    Mohamed Dubai, United Arab Emirates 10-29-11
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    "Insightful but fragmented"

    The topic generated lots of insights throughout the book. However, listening is quite difficult when you need to visualize mathematical concepts and calculations introduced. The author did his best. The book could have been shorter.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tyler Charlotte, NC, United States 08-23-11
    Tyler Charlotte, NC, United States 08-23-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Good book, but terrible AUDIO book"

    I would not suggest this audio book, and would instead suggest you buy the actual book. I'd give the book itself 5 stars, but since I retained less from this book than any other audio book I've ever listened to I have to take some stars off. It's like getting the audio version of a mathbook, it's just not the right way to read it.

    It's a very good book; however makes for a pretty terrible audio book. Info is way, way too dense to get much out of the audio alone. (For example, I'm quite familiar with Pascals triangle, but when listening to audio I couldn't make any sense of what he was trying to get across when he was discussing it. I was left very confused, and cannot fathom how someone with less knowledge of it than I would would ever be able to grasp what the audiobook is saying. And I still rewound it several times.)

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amber Fort Collins, CO, United States 06-20-11
    Amber Fort Collins, CO, United States 06-20-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Go for the "real" book"

    I must admit I only listened to half of this - I'm off to order the hard copy to finish it off.

    This was very interesting and well presented, however unless you're very clever with maths already you might get a bit confused (as I did!). I like to listen to audio books while I'm doing something else - cleaning, driving, cooking, etc, but I found with this book I needed 100% focus when they got to the nitty-gritty of the calculations. There are loads of good anecdotes for those who already have an interest in this science, but at the same time a good platform for people just getting into it.

    Good book, I can't wait to read it!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JTW 11-02-08
    JTW 11-02-08 Member Since 2005
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    "A Fun History of Probability"

    This book takes the reader through the history of probability theory from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Along the way it points out how very educated modern men and women are often baffled by basic concepts in probability.

    The narrative is spiced up by short probability puzzles relevant to the concepts being discovered by innovators in probability theory as the book moves closer to the modern day. It succeeds brilliantly in teaching mathematical concepts in an audio only format. Nevertheless, the interested listener may want to occasionally pause the narrative to solve the puzzles presented on her own.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Charlotte, NC 05-23-09
    Don Charlotte, NC 05-23-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Great book but this is just part 1"

    Enjoyed this greatly. The Monty Hall example is worth the whole price of the book. I had a lot o f fun discussing this with friends and family. One thing though they don't tell you is that this is only part one of a two part series. I can't find part two at all in Audible. It does not show on the title until you download it and then abruptly at the end of this part.

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Plantation, FL, United States 09-19-08
    John Plantation, FL, United States 09-19-08 Member Since 2003

    Longtime Audible enthusiast!

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    "Interesting"

    I found this an enjoyable listen. It was not too obtuse, although there were times I would have preferred to see some of the problems on the written page and I found myself rewinding the audio to listen to certain paragraphs several times.

    Yes, it is about probability theory, the history thereof and some current applications, but there is more. The author attempts to humanize the effects of randomness, statistics, accidents of fate by using examples from life, like the OJ trial, Roger Maris' record, Bill Gate's success, etc.

    Easy to listen to, not too heavy. You don't have to be a statistics or calculus expert to appreciate this book.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
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    Christopher somerset, Australia 11-27-13
    Christopher somerset, Australia 11-27-13 Member Since 2010
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    "a bit of a plod"

    I should have guessed that listening to Maths is not the way to learn about it! Ideas such as Pascal's triangle are not easily grasped by a spoken description. There is a lot of repetition in this book, concerning the lives of various mathematicians, and how their theories have been read, re-read re worked, and reapplied. Very little of this book was new to me, and I think the title should have read "an introduction to probability theory, with historical references". The populist title used by the author, I don't feel to be a good description of the contents.

    Fortunately, I got this book at cut price. I'm glad I didn't pay the original price for it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Downes New york, NY, United States 05-18-12
    Karen Downes New york, NY, United States 05-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "An engaging book, beautifully read by Lloyd James"

    Mlodinow is inspired; he finds stories, analogies, mysteries and histories that make the development of probability theory fascinating. I really enjoyed the book. The mathematics and the concepts were so easy to follow - building so solidly from step to step. I think I truly understand probability better now than I did after years of university statistics. Without (visible) effort Mlodinow has gifted me with understanding of the heart of probability - without that slightly panicked feeling of groping over it's slippery, mathematical surface. Seriously.

    Lloyd James performance is fantastic. I love his voice, his pace, his modulation. Lloyd adds greatly to Mlodinow's intent to make this a joy and a conversation. (Loyd's voice niggled at me for ages, so certain was I that I had heard it before. Finally I twigged that he was the gent of the Russian accent performing Heinlein's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"! Another excellent job.)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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