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Extended Audio Sample The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy, by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (230 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sharon Bertsch McGrayne Narrator: Laural Merlington Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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From critically acclaimed author Sharon Bertsch McGrayne comes a compelling, accessible account of the development of Bayes’ rule.

Bayes’ rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.

In the first-ever account of Bayes’ rule for general readers and listeners, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores this controversial theorem and the human obsessions surrounding it. She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. She reveals why respected statisticians rendered it professionally taboo for 150 years—at the same time that practitioners relied on it to solve crises involving great uncertainty and scanty information, even breaking Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, and explains how the advent of off-the-shelf computer technology in the 1980s proved to be a game changer. Today Bayes’ rule is used everywhere from DNA decoding to Homeland Security.

Drawing on primary source material and interviews with statisticians and other scientists, The Theory That Would Not Die is the riveting account of how a seemingly simple theorem ignited one of the greatest controversies of all time.

Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “If you are not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A rollicking tale of the triumph of a powerful mathematical tool…Impressively researched.”

    Nature

  • “A statistical thriller…McGrayne’s tale has everything you would expect of a modern-day thriller.”

    New Scientist

  • “Merlington delivers [this story] with energy and enthusiasm.”

    AudioFile

  • “This book succeeds gloriously, by never losing sight of the story, and it’s a wonderful story, one that desperately deserved to be told.”

    Robert E. Kass, Carnegie Mellon University

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Matt Smillie | 2/1/2014

    " Abandoned; not a bad narrative of the development of Bayesian methods, but lacks any substantial mathematical content. Given the historical examples in the book, that seems like a missed opportunity, even if only as an appendix. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by John | 1/26/2014

    " Of course I wish there had been more math - there are exactly two equations in the entire book - but that's to be expected. I did enjoy all of the anecdotes about famous mathematicians. George Box in particular sounded like quite a character. But ultimately I found the book a little disappointing. Since Bayes is as much a state of mind as a set of techniques, sometimes the author was reduced to essentially "it kinda looks like they used Bayesian reasoning to solve that problem, but we can't know for sure." Still, worth reading for anyone interested in the history of science and technology, and very accessible even for the non-mathematically inclined. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Aaron Hertzmann | 1/21/2014

    " Good, but only for trufans "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by kaythetall | 1/17/2014

    " Stories about math tend to be either well intentioned and obtuse or populist and shallow. This manages to walk the line between the two, which is rare, but does lean slightly towards the latter. Still a solid read, mixing history, obsession and science nicely. "

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About the Author

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of critically-acclaimed books about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. Her published works include Prometheans in the Lab, Nobel Prize Women in Science, and Blue Genes and Polyester Plants. A former prize winning journalist for Scripps-Howard, Crain’s, Gannett, and other newspapers, McGrayne has coauthored numerous articles about physics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A graduate of Swarthmore College, she lives in Seattle.