The Maths of Life and Death – By Kit Yates

‘Kit Yates shows how our private and social lives are suffused by mathematics. Ignorance may bring tragedy or farce. This is an exquisitely interesting book. It’s a deeply serious one too and, for those like me who have little maths, it’s delightfully readable.’

– Ian McEwan  (Best Selling author of Atonement)

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About the book

Maths is often a matter of life and death.

Maths underpins almost everything we do. From the way we communicate with each other to the way we travel, from how we work to how we relax.

But few of us really appreciate the full power of maths – the extent to which its influence is not only in every office and every home, but also in every courtroom and hospital ward.

In this eye-opening and extraordinary book, Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application – or misapplication – of mathematics has played a critical role: patients crippled by faulty genes and entrepreneurs bankrupt by faulty algorithms; innocent victims of miscarriages of justice and the unwitting victims of software glitches. We follow stories of investors who have lost fortunes and parents who have lost children, all because of mathematical misunderstandings.

Along the way, Yates arms us with simple mathematical rules and tools that can help us make better decisions in our increasingly quantitative society. You will discover why it’s always sensible to question a statistic, often vital to ask for a second opinion and sometimes surprisingly handy to stick to the 37% rule…

What other authors are saying

‘Kit Yates is a natural storyteller. Through fascinating stories and examples, he shows how maths is the beating heart of so much of modern life. An exciting  new voice in the world of science communication’

Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor for the public understanding of science at the University of Oxford and Author of The Creativity Code)

‘An extremely thoughtful, articulate and accessible insight into mathematics in the real world.’

Alex Bellos (Author of Alex’s Adventures in Numberland)

‘Kit Yates is a brilliant explainer and storyteller. Perhaps most charming of all, his stories are a bit like Sherlock Holmes tales: mysteries whose solutions seem surprising and then elementary, once the clever reasoning behind them is revealed. I loved this book and learned something on every page.’

Steven Strogatz (Professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers)

‘Used wisely, mathematics can save your life. Used unwisely, it can ruin it. A lucid and enthralling account of why maths matters in everyone’s life. A real eye-opener. ‘

Prof Ian Stewart (FRS, author of Do Dice Play God?)

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Seeing the world through a mathematical lens