I can highly recommend Marcus du Sautoy‘s video on the Guardian’s new Newton channel, exploring the world of chance and probability.

The good professor shows how probabilities become counter-intuitive as soon as a modicum of complexity is introduced. We all know that the chance of guessing heads on a coin-flip is one-in-two, and it’s fairly straightforward to show the chance of scooping the National Lottery jackpot is just under one in 14m.

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Bookshelf update

September 17, 2009

Spent far too much money in bookshops during a recent visit to Hay on Wye – but heroically avoided splashing out on a beautiful set of Pope’s translation of the Iliad (although at £450, temptation wasn’t that hard to resist).

But among the bargains I did snap up were Mario Livio’s The Equation that Couldn’t Be Solved, an account of the profound societal changes wrought by a special class of equation, called the quintic (containing fifth powers, as opposed to the quadratic, which contains squares). Read the rest of this entry »