Short works

Books : reviews

David J. Hand.
The Improbability Principle: why coincidences, miracles, and rare events happen every day.
Scientific American. 2014

In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand argues that extraordinarily rare events are anything but. In fact, “miracles” are commonplace. But Hand is no believer in superstitions, prophecies, or the paranormal. His definition of “miracle” is thoroughly rational. All we need in order to understand why someone is lucky enough to win the lottery twice, or is destined to be hit by lightning three times and still survive, Hand argues, is a firm grounding in his innovative Improbability Principle. This powerful set of laws explains “unexplainable” events such as unexpectedly bumping into a friend in a foreign country or coming across an unusual word four times in one day. Along the way, Hand teaches us how to use the Improbability Principle in our own lives—including how to cash in at a casino and how to recognize when a medicine is truly effective.

An irresistible adventure into the laws behind “chance” moments, The Improbability Principle will transform how you think about business decisions, everyday coincidences, serendipity, and luck.