"The pleasure and interest of being a scientist need not be confined to those gifted people who have the ability to pursue the highly specialised studies which are necessary for those who would reach the main frontiers of scientific advance."
G. I. Taylor, one of the great physicists of the twentieth century, among the last masters of both theory and experiment.
John Haigh takes the above quote as the epigraph for "Taking Chances", and makes his own significant contribution to scientific literacy. He concerns himself with "games of chance" in the broadest sense, from the National Lottery, quiz shows, casino games and card, dice and coin games, through game-theoretic "games" such as military conflicts, to all types of sports.
The author says in the introduction that "this book is intended as a polemic", and a polemic it certainly is. Whether or not you like the book will therefore depend not only on whether you agree with his thesis, but also on whether or not you like polemic.
I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam."
With these words, spoken in 1821, Charles Babbage embarked on the great quest of his life - the attempt to fully automate calculation. Goaded by the all-pervasive errors in the tables of the period, he began to conceive of a great machine that would replace human fallibility with utter mechanical reliability.
f you're flicking casually through the books in the "popular mathematics" section of your local bookshop, and see this book but fail to read the subtitle, you might well think that its theme is that some people are born with a "maths gene", and some without - and that possession of this gene is the major factor in determining who can do maths, and who can't.