Why Does One Smoker Die Of Lung Cancer But Another Live To The Answer Is The Hidden Half Those Random, Unknowable Variables That Mess Up Our Attempts To Comprehend The World We Humans Are Very Clever Creatures But We Re Idiots About How Clever We Really Are In This Entertaining And Ingenious Book, Blastland Reveals How In Our Quest To Make The World Understandable, We Lose Sight Of How Unexplainable It Often Is The Result From GDP Figures To Medicine Is That Experts Know A Lot Less Than They Think Filled With Compelling Stories From Economics, Genetics, Business, And Science, The Hidden Half Is A Warning That An Explanation Which Works In One Arena May Not Work In Another Entertaining And Provocative, It Will Change How You View The World


4 thoughts on “The Hidden Half

  1. A. Weir A. Weir says:

    I liked the book I have a science background and work in a job that requires me to use it I m frequently appalled at the poor quality of mainstream research, and the misuse of it or misinterpretation of it in the popular press Blastland has an engaging writing style and digs a lot of incriminating skeletons out of Science s basement.The main downfall is that he never really drills into the details He doesn t describe how statistical tools are normally used and how they work or don t work when misapplied He doesn t discuss probability theory at all, and in particular he doesn t point out that there s a difference between describing a genuinely random process using probabilities, and using probability to gloss over a we have no idea what we re looking at scenario nutritionism is often guilty of the latter offence He skates over the philosophical progress that has been made regarding the limits of knowledge, and the limits of the scientific method The result is that the book just feels a bit repetitive, as he reasserts his point without ever really adding to it.I d still recommend this book particularly for the non scientist because the modern world is awash with pseudoscience and superstition, and it s critical than ever before that the average man in the street sees it for what it is.


  2. Shove Coupler Shove Coupler says:

    I really enjoyed this book, partly because I ve been muttering the same sort of things under my breath for years a lot of statistics and research findings are presented, and reported by the media, as though they represent cast iron certainty when in fact they are just borderline tendencies that won t affect the vast majority of people The book is a collection of stories, mainly of failures of one sort or another, from the fields of science, economics and politics.I give just 4 stars because a he waffles on too much, telling a story, drawing a conclusion, then pontificating on it and putting despairing rhetorical questions for paragraph after paragraph Eventually one learns to skim these bits, because the good stuff particuarly chapters 6 and 7 is really good b the anecdotal nature of the book could do with just a bit insight into statistical methods used in the many flawed studies and erroneous predictions he describes There are few illustrations, just a couple of graphs and no maths whatsoever, which some may see as a bonus But very glad I bought it Recommended.


  3. Dr Barry Clayton Dr Barry Clayton says:

    An integral part of human nature is to acquire new knowledge, to ask how and why This original and entertaining book supports this but warns us to show humility and to remember that things we regard as stable can be dramatically changed by very small changes The book makes you, or should make you, look anew at what you know or think you know.Statistics are notoriously easy to use in order to distort the truth As our statistical know how has increased there has been a need to distinguish what is really happening from randomness In other words beware of noise The author acknowledges this but adds that there is a danger in so doing Blastland argues that noise contains information, a great deal of information He believes we ignore noise because we simply don t understand it He admits as have others that noise is not easy to analyse What we need to heed is the signal.As an example he cites smoking as a known killer As we all know, however, it doesn t kill every smoker Some people smoke heavily for decades but never get cancer Why Because they once opened a door an a cold blast led them to cough up the cancerous cells But will we ever know if this was the reason In brief, the author reminds us that many things are simply unknowable He is not however advocating ignoring large scale studies using statistics We just need to be on our guard.There is, as he says, a replication crisis in natural science and social science What works in country A fails to work in country B Blastland accuses us of being very ignorant Briefly, we don t know what we think we know His examples from Economics are well known but very pertinent In a tart remark, he says we can t even predict the past He adds we will probably never know what we have been doing wrong.This is not an easy book to read and understand, particularly if your knowledge of statistics is a bit shaky It is a very thoughtful and engaging book that ought to make you think.


  4. Jill Nicholls Jill Nicholls says:

    This book was given to me by a friend and I didn t know what to expect I REALLY enjoyed it and will be boring all my friends about marmokrebs, Bangladeshi mothers in law and so on for the next few months, at least YES of course everything is uncertain and probably not translatable and we should be trying things out playing with solutions to find which work where You make such an important argument I do hope politicians and policy makers will read it and behave differently.I think the reason that I have always struggled with business school and medical research is the huge number of variables and unknown unknowns and that results only ever seem to hint at a clue about the truth thankfully my subject, chemistry, was clearer, although even there it was the experiments that went wrong, and being curious as to why, that led to the most interesting discoveries I know that the reason I couldn t bear working on anything with government was the rapid fire of new initiatives and the failure to study the results good or bad of each new big project before moving on to the next silver bullet , just as you say.And I shall be less surprised to find that the drugs my family is given mostly dont work or make things worse rather than better how interesting to see that for one of your examples we are the lucky 1 in 5 who the drug does help, at least a bit.I shall be buying copies and pressing them into the hands of anyone I think might DO something differently.I really hope it sells well and, importantly is read and heard.