Books "The Theory That Would Not Die," by Sharon McGrayne

Published on September 13th, 2013 | by Travis Korte


“The Theory That Would Not Die,” by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

The Theory That Would Not Die, by science writer Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, aims to track the history and emerging applications of Bayes’ theorem, a statement from probability theory that holds a ubiquitous presence in much of contemporary statistics and data science. The theorem specifies a technical means by which the estimated probability of a future event occurring can be updated in the face of new evidence.

The book, addressed to nontechnical readers, is subtitled, How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy. Indeed, the applications of the theorem are enormously wide-ranging, with use cases from DNA decoding to homeland security. In spite of its versatility, its use was limited for most of its 250-year history, due to its somewhat counterintuitive nature and an unwillingness on the part of some prominent members of the statistical community to adopt it in their research.

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About the Author

Travis Korte is a research analyst at the Center for Data Innovation specializing in data science applications and open data. He has a background in journalism, computer science and statistics. Prior to joining the Center for Data Innovation, he launched the Science vertical of The Huffington Post and served as its Associate Editor, covering a wide range of science and technology topics. He has worked on data science projects with HuffPost and other organizations. Before this, he graduated with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, having studied critical theory and completed coursework in computer science and economics. His research interests are in computational social science and using data to engage with complex social systems. You can follow him on Twitter @traviskorte.

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