# Search - List of Books by Marilyn Vos Savant

*"Be able to meet any deadline, even if your work is done less well than it would be if you had all the time you would have preferred." -- Marilyn Vos Savant*

**Marilyn vos Savant** (; born August 11, 1946) is an American magazine column, author, lecturer, and playwright who rose to fame through her listing in the *Guinness Book of World Records* under "Highest IQ". Since 1986 she has written "Ask Marilyn", a Sunday column in *Parade* magazine in which she solves puzzles and answers questions from readers on a variety of subjects.

*"A good idea will keep you awake during the morning, but a great idea will keep you awake during the night."**"A person who learns to juggle six balls will be more skilled than the person who never tries to juggle more than three."**"Although spoken English doesn't obey the rules of written language, a person who doesn't know the rules thoroughly is at a great disadvantage."**"At first, I only laughed at myself. Then I noticed that life itself is amusing. I've been in a generally good mood ever since."**"Attention-deficit disorders seem to abound in modern society, and we don't know the cause."**"Avoid using cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs as alternatives to being an interesting person."**"Be able to analyze statistics, which can be used to support or undercut almost any argument."**"Be able to back up a car for a considerable distance in a straight line and back out of a driveway."**"Be able to blow out a dinner candle without sending wax flying across the table."**"Be able to cite three good qualities of every relative or acquaintance that you dislike."**"Be able to confide your innermost secrets to your mother and your innermost fears to your father."**"Be able to correctly pronounce the words you would like to speak and have excellent spoken grammar."**"Be able to decline a date so gracefully that the person isn't embarrassed that he or she asked."**"Be able to defend your arguments in a rational way. Otherwise, all you have is an opinion."**"Be able to describe anything visual, such as a street scene, in words that convey your meaning."**"Be able to draw an illustration as least well enough to get your point across to another person."**"Be able to go shopping for a bathing suit and not become depressed afterward."**"Be able to hiccup silently, or at least without alerting neighbors to your situation. The first hiccup is an exception."**"Be able to identify the most common breeds of dogs and cats on sight."**"Be able to keep a secret or promise when you know in your heart that it is the right thing to do."**"Be able to live alone, even if you don't want to and think you will never find it necessary."**"Be able to notice all the confusion between fact and opinion that appears in the news."**"Be able to read blueprints, diagrams, floorplans, and other diagrams used in the construction process."**"Be able to recognize many of the major constellations and know the stories behind them."**"Be able to recognize the dangerous snakes, spiders, insects, and plants that live in your area of the country."**"Be able to recognize when you're reading or hearing material biased to your own side."**"Be able to sneeze without sounding ridiculous. That means neither stifling yourself or spraying your immediate vicinity."**"Be able to suffer wearing a necktie or slightly high heels for an entire evening without complaint or early removal."**"Be able to tell whether garments that look good on the hanger actually look good on you."**"Be in the habit of experimenting with your clothing so that you don't get stuck for life with a self-image developed over the course of high school."**"Be in the habit of getting up bright and early on the weekends. Why waste such precious time in bed?"**"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent."**"Capital punishment is the source of many an argument, both good and bad."**"Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized."**"Evolution has long been the target of illogical arguments that use presumption."**"Experts say you can't concentrate on more than one task at a time."**"Have enough sense to know, ahead of time, when your skills will not extend to wallpapering."**"Have you ever noticed that when you must struggle to hear something, you close your eyes?"**"I believe that one can indeed work on two or more tasks at once, but in ways yet to be understood."**"I suspect that some apparently homosexual people are really heterosexuals who deeply phobic about the opposite sex or have other emotional problems."**"I think change is possible, but only for individuals who were never truly gay in the first place and who have a strong personal motivation to recover their heterosexuality."**"I would not encourage children or teens to multitask because we don't know where those efforts may lead."**"If your head tells you one thing, and your heart tells you another, before you do anything, you should first decide whether you have a better head or a better heart."**"Know about the appeals process, especially in the case of the most serious crimes."**"Know how and how much to tip people who expect gratuities, even in the case of poor service."**"Know how to behave at a buffet. Take a clean plate for a second helping."**"Know how to behave at a fine restaurant, which is a telltale measure of social maturity."**"Know how to drive safely when it's raining or when it's snowing. The two conditions are different."**"Know how to effectively voice a complaint or make a claim at a retail store."**"Know how to garnish food so that it is more appealing to the eye and even more flavorful than before."**"Know how to travel from your town to a nearby town without a car, either by bus or by rail."**"Know how to treat frostbite until you can get indoors."**"Know how weather, especially humidity, can affect the movement of doors and windows."**"Know how your representatives stand on major national or state issues."**"Know the difference between principles based on right or wrong vs. principles based on personal gain, and consider the basis of your own principles."**"Know the function of a fuse box and the appearance of a tripped circuit breaker."**"Know the names of past and current artists who are most famous for playing their instruments."**"Know the official post office abbreviations for all 50 states without having to consult a list."**"Know what happens when an individual declares bankruptcy and how it affects his or her life."**"Know what to do if you feel faint or dizzy, especially if you might fall and hit your head."**"Know where to find the sunrise and sunset times and note how the sky looks at those times, at least once."**"Know which officials are voted into office and which are appointed, and by whom."**"Know why certain foods, such as truffles, are expensive. It's not because they taste best."**"Learn at least two classic ballroom dances, at least one of them Latin."**"Make a habit of canceling every subscription to anything you don't have time to read."**"Many people feel they must multi-task because everybody else is multitasking, but this is partly because they are all interrupting each other so much."**"Multi-tasking arises out of distraction itself."**"No one would choose to be jerked randomly off task again and again until you have half a dozen things you're trying to get done, all at the same time."**"People who work crossword puzzles know that if they stop making progress, they should put the puzzle down for a while."**"Play more than one game at a time. This is a painless way to learn how to do many things at once."**"Scientists and creationists are always at odds, of course."**"Skill is successfully walking a tightrope between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. Intelligence is not trying."**"Society needs people who can manage projects in addition to handling individual tasks."**"Spending waiting moments doing crossword puzzles or reading a book you brought yourself."**"Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses."**"Teens think listening to music helps them concentrate. It doesn't. It relieves them of the boredom that concentration on homework induces."**"The chess player who develops the ability to play two dozen boards at a time will benefit from learning to compress his or her analysis into less time."**"The difference between talking on your cell phone while driving and speaking with a passenger is huge. The person on the other end of the cell phone is chattering away, oblivious."**"The freedom to be an individual is the essence of America."**"The length of your education is less important than its breadth, and the length of your life is less important than its depth."**"To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."**"Understand why casinos and racetracks stay in business - the gambler always loses over the long term."**"What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom "to" and freedom "from.""**"When our spelling is perfect, it's invisible. But when it's flawed, it prompts strong negative associations."**"While you're writing, you can't concentrate nearly as well on what the speaker is saying."**"Working in an office with an array of electronic devices is like trying to get something done at home with half a dozen small children around. The calls for attention are constant."*

Vos Savant was born Marilyn Mach in St. Louis, Missouri to Joseph Mach and Marina vos Savant, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany and Italy respectively. Vos Savant believes that both men and women should keep their premarital surnames for life, with sons taking their fathers' surnames and daughters their mothers'. The word "savant", meaning a person of learning, appears twice in her family: her maternal grandmother's maiden name was Savant, while her maternal grandfather's surname was vos Savant. Vos Savant is of German and Italian ancestry, and is a descendant of physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach.

As a teenager, vos Savant used to spend her time working in her father's general store and enjoyed writing and reading. She sometimes wrote articles and subsequently published them under a pseudonym in the local newspaper, stating that she did not want to misuse her name for work that she perceived to be imperfect. When she was sixteen years old, vos Savant married a university student, but the marriage ended in a divorce when she was in her twenties. Her second marriage ended when she was 35.

Vos Savant studied philosophy at the Washington University in St. Louis despite her parents' desire for a more useful subject. After two years, she dropped out to help with a family investment business, seeking financial freedom to pursue a career in writing.

Vos Savant moved to New York City in the 1980s. Before her weekly column in *Parade*, vos Savant wrote the *Omni I.Q. Quiz Contest* for *Omni*, which contains "I.Q. quizzes" and expositions on intelligence and intelligence testing.

Vos Savant lives in New York City with her husband Robert Jarvik, one of the developers of the Jarvik artificial heart. Vos Savant is Chief Financial Officer of Jarvik Heart, Inc., and is involved in cardiovascular disease research and prevention. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Economic Education and on the advisory boards of the National Association for Gifted Children and the National Women's History Museum, which in 1998 gave her a "Women Making History" Award, citing "her contribution to changing stereotypes about women." She was named by Toastmasters International as one of the "Five Outstanding Speakers of 1999," and in 2003 received an honorary Doctor of Letters from The College of New Jersey.

In 1985, *Guinness Book of World Records* accepted vos Savant's IQ score of 228 and gave her the record for "Highest IQ". She was listed in that category from 1986 to 1989. She was inducted into the *Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame* in 1988. Guinness retired the category of "Highest IQ" in 1990, after concluding that IQ tests are not reliable enough to designate a single world record holder. The listing gave her nationwide attention and instigated her rise to fame.

*Guinness* cites vos Savant's performance on two intelligence tests, the Stanford-Binet and the Mega Test. She was administered the 1937 Stanford-Binet, Second Revision test at age ten, which obtained ratio IQ scores (by dividing the subject's mental age as assessed by the test by chronological age, then multiplying the quotient by 100). Vos Savant says her first test was in September 1956, and measured her ceiling mental age at 22 years and 10 months (22-10+), yielding an IQ of 228. The IQ calculation of 228 was listed in *Guinness Book of World Records*, listed in the short biographies in her books, and is the one she gives in interviews. Sometimes, a rounded value of 230 appears.

Ronald K. Hoeflin calculated her IQ at 218 by using 10-6+ for chronological age and 22-11+ for mental age. The Second Revision Stanford-Binet ceiling was 22 years and 10 months, not 11 months. A 10 years and 6 months chronological age corresponds to neither the age in accounts by vos Savant nor the school records cited by Baumgold. She has commented on reports mentioning varying IQ scores she was said to have obtained..

Alan S. Kaufman, an author of IQ tests and of books about IQ testing, writes in *IQ Testing 101* that "Miss Savant was given an old version of the Stanford-Binet (Terman & Merrill 1937), which did, indeed, use the antiquated formula of MA/CA × 100. But in the test manual's norms, the Binet does not permit IQs to rise above 170 at any age, child or adult. And the authors of the old Binet stated: 'Beyond fifteen the mental ages are entirely artificial and are to be thought of as simply numerical scores.' (Terman & Merrill 1937). . . . the psychologist who came up with an IQ of 228 committed an extrapolation of a misconception, thereby violating almost every rule imaginable concerning the meaning of IQs."

The second test reported by *Guinness* is the Mega Test, designed by Ronald K. Hoeflin, administered to vos Savant in the mid-1980s as an adult. The Mega Test yields deviation IQ values obtained by multiplying the subjects normalized z-score, or the rarity of the raw test score, by a constant standard deviation, and adding the product to 100, with vos Savant's raw score reported by Hoeflin to be 46 out of a possible 48, with 5.4 z-score, and standard deviation of 16, arriving at a 186 IQ in the 99.999997 percentile, with a rarity of 1 in 30 million. The Mega Test has been criticized by professional psychologists as improperly designed and scored, "nothing short of number pulverization."

Although vos Savant's IQ scores are among the highest recorded, the more extravagant sources, stating that she is the smartest person in the world and was a child prodigy, have been received with skepticism. Vos Savant herself says she values IQ tests as measurements of a variety of mental abilities and believes intelligence itself involves so many factors that "attempts to measure it are useless."

Vos Savant has held memberships with the high-IQ societies, Mensa International and the Prometheus Society.

Vos Savant is most widely known for her weekly column in *Parade*, "Ask Marilyn". Vos Savant's listing in the 1986 *Guinness Book of World Records* brought her widespread media attention. *Parade* ran a profile of vos Savant with a selection of questions from *Parade* readers and her answers. *Parade* continued to receive questions, so "Ask Marilyn" was made into a weekly column.

In "Ask Marilyn", vos Savant answers questions from readers on a wide range of chiefly academic subjects, solves mathematical or logical or vocabulary puzzles posed by readers, occasionally answers requests for advice with logic, and includes quizzes and puzzles devised by vos Savant. Aside from the weekly printed column, "Ask Marilyn" is a daily online column which supplements the printed column by resolving controversial answers, correcting mistakes, expanding answers, reposting previous answers, and answering additional questions.

Three of her books (*Ask Marilyn*, *More Marilyn*, and *Of Course, I'm for Monogamy*) are compilations of questions and answers from "Ask Marilyn"; and *The Power of Logical Thinking* includes many questions and answers from the column.

## Controversy Regarding Fermat's Last Theorem **more ï¿½** **ï¿½ less**

A few months after the announcement by Andrew Wiles that he had proved Fermat's Last Theorem, vos Savant published her book *The World's Most Famous Math Problem* in October 1993. The book surveys the history of Fermat's last theorem as well as other mathematical mysteries. Controversy came from the book's criticism of Wiles' proof; vos Savant was accused of misunderstanding mathematical induction, proof by contradiction, and imaginary numbers.

Her assertion that Wiles' proof should be rejected for its use of non-Euclidean geometry was especially contested. Specifically, she argued that because "the chain of proof is based in hyperbolic geometry," and because squaring the circle is considered a "famous impossibility" despite being possible in hyperbolic geometry, then "if we reject a hyperbolic method of squaring the circle, we should also reject a hyperbolic proof of Fermat's last theorem."

Mathematicians pointed to differences between the two cases, distinguishing the use of hyperbolic geometry as a *tool* for proving Fermat's last theorem and from its use as a *setting* for squaring the circle: squaring the circle in hyperbolic geometry is a different problem from that of squaring it in Euclidean geometry. She was criticized for rejecting hyperbolic geometry as a satisfactory basis for Wiles' proof, with critics pointing out that axiomatic set theory (rather than Euclidean geometry) is now the accepted foundation of mathematical proofs and that set theory is sufficiently robust to encompass both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry as well as geometry and adding numbers.

In a July 1995 addendum to the book, vos Savant retracts the argument, writing that she had viewed the theorem as "an intellectual challenge—'to find a proof with Fermat's tools.'" Fermat claimed to have a proof he couldn't fit in the margins where he wrote his theorem. If he really had a proof, it would presumably be Euclidean. Therefore, Wiles may have proven the theorem but Fermat's proof remains undiscovered, if it ever really existed. She is now willing to agree that there are no restrictions on what tools may be used.

### The Monty Hall problem

Perhaps the best-known event involving vos Savant began with a question in her 9 September 1990 column:

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors. Behind one door is a car, behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say #1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say #3, which has a goat. He says to you, "Do you want to pick door #2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice of doors?—Craig F. Whitaker Columbia, Maryland

This question, named "the Monty Hall problem" because of its similarity to scenarios on the game show

*Let's Make a Deal,* existed long before being posed to vos Savant, but was brought to nationwide attention by her column. Vos Savant answered arguing that the selection should be switched to door #2 because it has a 2/3 chance of success, while door #1 has just 1/3. Or to summarise, 2/3 of the time the opened door #3 will indicate the location of door with the car (the door you hadn't picked and the one not opened by the host). Only 1/3 of the time will the opened door #3 mislead you into changing from the winning door to a losing door. These probabilities assume you change your choice each time door #3 is opened, and that the host always opens a door with a goat. This response provoked letters of thousands of readers, nearly all arguing doors #1 and #2 each have an equal chance of success. A follow-up column reaffirming her position served only to intensify the debate and soon became a feature article on the front page of

*The New York Times.* Among the ranks of dissenting arguments were hundreds of academics and mathematicians.

Under the most common interpretation of the problem where the host opens a losing door and offers a switch, vos Savant's answer is correct because her interpretation assumes the host will always avoid the door with the prize. However, having the host opening a door at random, or offering a switch only if the initial choice is correct, is a completely different problem, and is not the question for which she provided a solution. Vos Savant addressed these issues by writing the following in

*Parade Magazine*, "...the original answer defines certain conditions, the most significant of which is that the host always opens a losing door on purpose. Anything else is a different question." In vos Savant's second followup, she went further into an explanation of her assumptions and reasoning, and called on school teachers to present the problem to each of their classrooms. In her final column on the problem, she announced the results of the more than a thousand school experiments. Nearly 100% of the results concluded that it pays to switch. Of the readers who wrote computer simulations of the problem, 97% reached the same conclusion. A majority of respondents now agree with her original solution, with half of the published letters declaring the letter writers had changed their minds.

This problem has been used in many different books, movies, etc. including the movie

*21* and the novel

*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time*.

### "Two boys" problem

Like the Monty Hall problem, the "two boys" or "second-sibling" problem predates

*Ask Marilyn*, but generated controversy in the column, first appearing there in 1991-92 in the context of baby beagles:

A shopkeeper says she has two new baby beagles to show you, but she doesn't know whether they're male, female, or a pair. You tell her that you want only a male, and she telephones the fellow who's giving them a bath. "Is at least one a male?" she asks him. "Yes!" she informs you with a smile. What is the probability that the *other* one is a male?—Stephen I. Geller, Pasadena, California

When vos Savant replied "One out of three", readers wrote to argue that the odds were fifty-fifty. In a follow-up, she defended her answer, observing that "If we could shake a pair of puppies out of a cup the way we do dice, there are four ways they could land", in three of which at least one is male, but in only one of which both are male. See Boy or Girl paradox for solution details.

The problem re-emerged in 1996-97 with two cases juxtaposed:

Say that a woman and a man (who are unrelated) each has two children. We know that at least one of the woman's children is a boy and that the man's oldest child is a boy. Can you explain why the chances that the woman has two boys do not equal the chances that the man has two boys? My algebra teacher insists that the probability is greater that the man has two boys, but I think the chances may be the same. What do you think?

Vos Savant agreed with the algebra teacher, writing that the chances are only 1 out of 3 that the woman has two boys, but 1 out of 2 that the man has two boys. Readers argued for 1 out of 2 in both cases, prompting multiple follow-ups. Finally, vos Savant started a survey, calling on women readers (with exactly two children and at least one boy) and male readers (with exactly two children - the elder a boy) to tell her the sex of both children. With almost eighteen thousand responses, the results showed 35.9% of them having two boys.

- 1985 —
*Omni I.Q. Quiz Contest*
- 1990 —
*Brain Building: Exercising Yourself Smarter* (co-written with Leonore Fleischer)
- 1992 —
*Ask Marilyn: Answers to America's Most Frequently Asked Questions*
- 1993 —
*The World's Most Famous Math Problem: The Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and Other Mathematical Mysteries*
- 1994 —
*More Marilyn: Some Like It Bright!*
- 1994 —
*"I've Forgotten Everything I Learned in School!": A Refresher Course to Help You Reclaim Your Education*
- 1996 —
*Of Course I'm for Monogamy: I'm Also for Everlasting Peace and an End to Taxes* *
** 1996 — *The Power of Logical Thinking: Easy Lessons in the Art of Reasoningand Hard Facts about Its Absence in Our Lives*
** 2000 — *The Art of Spelling: The Madness and the Method*
** 2002 — *Growing Up: A Classic American Childhood*
*

*
*In addition to her published works, vos Savant has written a collection of humorous short stories called

*Short Shorts*, a stage play called

*It Was Poppa's Will*, and two novels: a satire of a dozen classical civilizations in history called

*The Re-Creation*, and a futuristic political fantasy, as yet untitled.

**Total Books:** 35