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Surprises in Probability

Henk Tijms
Chapman and Hall/CRC
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Peter Rabinovitch
, on
Surprises in Probability: Seventeen Short Stories is a really fun book. It is a compendium of (surprise) seventeen probability problems that you most likely have already seen if you have studied probability at any depth - say one of Ross' books (no measure theory is needed). The standards are all there: the birthday paradox, the gambler's fallacy, the St. Petersburg paradox, and many others, each with their own chapter. These are all explained with words, a very few equations, some pictures and lots of appeal to intuition. But the fun is really after the 'standard' version of the problem when the author explains variations and extensions, many of which I was not previously aware of (and my degree is in probability)!
So, who is this book for? I could easily imagine a teacher using it to enrich the standard problems in a probability course. A skilled undergraduate could turn the prose into mathematics as an independent reading course, or extend the results as an undergraduate thesis. And of course, anybody who loves probability.
The book is short at just over a hundred pages, and does not have exercises.  Similar books at varying levels of sophistication include Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability with Solutions by Frederick Mosteller, and Problems and Snapshots from the World of Probability by Gunnar Blom, Lars Holst, et al.


Peter Rabinovitch is the head of Data Science at Ario Platform, and has been doing data science since long before 'data science' was a thing.