200% of nothing: an eye-opening tour through the twists and turns of math abuse and innumeracy

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Wiley, May 31, 1993 - Mathematics - 182 pages
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In this delightfully witty excursion into the world of mathematical manipulation, popular columnist and math whiz A. K. Dewdney unveils the vast array of ways in which numbers are twisted and statistics are turned in order to fool the unsuspecting public. From the case of the "Incredible Expanding Toyota" to that of the "National Security Googol," Dewdney exposes the slick tricks and subtle schemes used by advertisers, politicians, special interest lobbyists, stockbrokers, car dealers, and just about anybody who tries to impress us with numbers, charts, and graphs. At turns funny and infuriating, Two Hundred Percent of Nothing is packed with real-life examples from the worlds of advertising, government, business, and media that demonstrate all types of math abuses. Dewdney identifies them by name, from "number bludgeoning to occult sampling," and shows us exactly how they play upon our innumeracy - the common inability to understand the rules of percentages, ratios, statistics, and basic math logic. You may want to buy the halogen light bulbs that an ad claims will save you 200% on energy costs, until Dewdney points out that it's impossible to save any more than 100% of something. And you may never want to play the lottery again when you learn that your chances of winning are mathematically equivalent whether you play or not. Why should we be skeptical of 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed? What's the bull behind the bull market? Do statistics really prove it's safer to fly than drive across country? When would financing a car through a dealer be a bad deal? With the wry wit and professorial wisdom that made his math column a favorite among Scientific American readers for nearly a decade, Dewdney gives the answers. Furthermore, he explains the basic math behind the answers so that the next time you see mathematical chicanery, you'll recognize it. Though you may be shocked at how pervasive math abuse is, you may be even more astonished to discover how rapidly you can learn the simple tricks and basic logic of defending yourself against it. As Dewdney writes in his Introduction: "It is far easier to calculate a percentage than it is to drive a car." Math abusers are everywhere, but with Dewdney's shrewd pointers, you can easily catch them at their own game.

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User Review  - MartinBodek - LibraryThing

Innumeracy is a more widespread plague than is illiteracy, yet we don't seem to pay it any attention or mind. This is a mistake, as Dewdney handily points out. Reading this book, I was proud that the ... Read full review

200% of nothing:: an eye-opening tour through the twists and turns of math abuse and innumeracy

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Comedian George Carlin, as the "Hippie-Dippie Weatherman,'' comments on the media abuse of numbers when he says in his forecast, "And now for some temperatures from around the nation: 58, 72, 85, 49 ... Read full review


Innumeracy and Math Abuse
Statistics and Damned Lies

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About the author (1993)

A. K. Dewdney, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Western Ontario. Well known for his popular "Mathematical Recreations" column, which ran in Scientific American for more than eight years, he is also the author of several books, including The Armchair Universe and The Planiverse: Computer Contact with a Two-Dimensional World.

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