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The Math of Life and Death

7 Mathematical Principles That Shape Our Lives


About The Book

Brilliant and entertaining mathematician Kit Yates illuminates seven mathematical concepts that shape our daily lives.

From birthdays to birth rates to how we perceive the passing of time, mathematical patterns shape our lives. But for those of us who left math behind in high school, the numbers and figures we encounter as we go about our days can leave us scratching our heads, feeling as if we’re fumbling through a mathematical minefield. In this eye-opening and “welcome addition to the math-for-people-who-hate-math” (Kirkus Reviews), Kit Yates illuminates hidden principles that can help us understand and navigate the chaotic and often opaque surfaces of our world.

In The Math of Life and Death, Yates takes us on a “dizzying, dazzling” (Nature) tour of everyday situations and grand-scale applications of mathematical concepts, including exponential growth and decay, optimization, statistics and probability, and number systems. Along the way he reveals the mathematical undersides of controversies over DNA testing, Ponzi schemes, viral marketing, and historical events such as the Chernobyl disaster and the Amanda Knox trial. Readers will finish this book with an enlightened perspective on the news, the law, medicine, and history, and will be better equipped to make personal decisions and solve problems with math in mind, whether it’s choosing the shortest checkout line at the grocery store or halting the spread of a deadly disease.

About The Author

© University of Bath

Kit Yates is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and codirector of the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath. He completed his PhD in mathematics at the University of Oxford in 2011. His research into mathematical biology has been covered by the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail (London), RTE, Scientific American, and Reuters amongst others. The Math of Life and Death is his first book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (April 27, 2021)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982111885

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Raves and Reviews

“A dizzying, dazzling debut.” —Nature

“A welcome addition to the math-for-people-who-hate-math genre...All but the stubbornly innumerate will enjoy this amusing mathematical miscellany.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ponzi schemes, nuclear fission, and viral marketing are just a few of the topics covered in this savvy book from first-time author Yates…Any inquisitive and open-minded reader can enjoy this valuable primer on the use and abuse of numbers in the everyday world.” —Publishers Weekly

“Kit Yates is a brilliant explainer and storyteller. Perhaps most charming of all, his stories are a bit like Sherlock Holmes tales: mysteries whose solutions seem surprising and then elementary, once the clever reasoning behind them is revealed. I loved this book and learned something on every page.”
—Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers and The Joy of X

“Kit Yates shows how our private and social lives are suffused by mathematics. Ignorance may bring tragedy or farce. This is an exquisitely interesting book. It’s a deeply serious one too and, for those like me who have little math, it’s delightfully readable.”
Ian McEwan, author of Atonement

“Kit Yates is a natural storyteller. Through fascinating stories and examples, he shows how math is the beating heart of so much of modern life. An exciting new voice in the world of science communication.”
—Marcus du Sautoy, author of The Music of the Primes

“Used wisely, mathematics can save your life. Used unwisely, it can ruin it. A lucid and enthralling account of why math matters in everyone’s life. A real eye-opener.”
Ian Stewart, author of In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World

“This crisp, clear and compelling book is about the liminal spaces between expertise in mathematics and hardline decision-making, taking you on a powerful journey about truth and belief and what math actually is, out in the wild.” —Times Education Supplement (UK)

“Many people assume that the closest math gets to their daily lives is when it’s time to calculate the tip at a restaurant or the discount being offered at a store. But mathematician Yates shows that everyone—even the most math-phobic among us—interacts with math much more often and deeply than we realize.” —Scientific American

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