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Book Review of A Very Improbable Story

A Very Improbable Story
reviewed on + 19 more book reviews

Unfortunately, this book is likely to lead to as many misconceptions as it is revelations about probability.

The first problem is that the author seems to think probability and odds are synonymous. The second problem is that, although the character recognizes on page 13 that the probability of getting a particular sock changes as other socks are removed from the drawer, he completely forgets that when applying that principle to marbles on page 19. Because there are 16 possible outcomes when drawing two marbles from a bag of marbles containing 25 of each of four colors, he says the probability of getting two white marbles is 1/16, when in fact it is (25/100)(24/99). The probability of each of the 16 possible outcomes is not equal. (It would be even more unequal if the numbers of marbles were not the same for each color, but that does not come up, and when he goes on to examine a box of cereal with five different animal shapes, he makes the (dangerous) assumption that there are the same number of each shape in the box.

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