The Theory That Would Not Die

  • by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
  • Narrated by Laural Merlington
  • 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

"If you are not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be." (New York Times Book Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Read Up on Baye's Before Reading

Sharon McGrayne tackles Baye’s Rule in her volume The Theory that Would Not Die. Along the way she shows how the ‘rule’ has gone under only to reappear in different times, be used in different places, and gather influence under varied circumstances. I found the narrative engaging and the history she presents informative. I wish, however, that she had had an early chapter discussing what Baye’s Rule is, how it works, and what it means to users. Baye’s Rule is well available to those with simple math ability and it seems the book would have a wider audience had she made this allowance. So, if you are familiar with Baye’s Theorem pick up the book and turn some pages. If you are not familiar with the theorem, read up on it a little and then turn those pages. There are unexpected insights in every chapter. The narration of Laural Merlington is good.
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- Lynn

Poorly read

What did you like about this audiobook?

Did a good job of constructing a story about a particular statistical technique. She overdoes it. Bayes theorm is not the same as the story of Seabiscuit.


What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

At first I thought she was a computer generated voice. Her cadence was was odd, adding syllables at random. Many names were mispronounced.


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- Ronald

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-30-2012
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio