Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

A billion dollars equates to about six cents per person per week when spread across the US, so is this amount a large number or a small number? Why would centenarians counted in a census increase tenfold between the 1960 and 1970 censuses and then decrease by two-thirds in the next census? How can interpreting data leave the impression of an 82 percent survival rate from prostate cancer in the US, but only 44 percent in the UK? In 12 short chapters, the authors, who are not mathematicians, present a broad range of examples regarding the use and misuse of numbers as encountered regularly by the general public. Blastland and Dilnot are creator and former host, respectively, of the British radio program More or Less, on which this book was based. It was originally published in the UK as The Tiger That Isn't (2007), with adaptations for the American audience. The content is light but seriously presented, and it is an easy read for individuals curious about how numbers are used and misused in the news. While not earth-shattering in its content, the work is an excellent vehicle for getting one to reflect on chance, number size, and data in a nonthreatening way. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. N. W. Schillow Lehigh Carbon Community College


Publishers Weekly
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Americans are assaulted by numbers, whether it's the latest political poll or most recent clinical study on caffeine. But what do these numbers really mean and are they communicating a categorical truth? Blastland and Dilnot, from the BBC radio show More or Less, embark on a monumental task of interpreting numerical data and showing how its misinterpretation often leads to misinformation. "It is one thing to measure," they write, "quite another to wrench the numbers to a false conclusion." The authors take a close look at statistics that are accepted at face value--many stemming from scientific or medical discoveries. They examine everything from the link between alcohol and breast cancer risk to baseball batting averages to fascinating assessments of the manipulation of data by politicians when they talk taxes or the cautionary tale of a U.K. educational measurement program designed much like No Child Left Behind. Blastland and Dilnot apply their famously cheeky approach to the analysis of how people are duped, frightened or falsely encouraged by data. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved