Sussex mathematician pens a probable winner
A University of Sussex statistician’s latest book is likely to be a hit – especially among those keen to understand more about risk and chance.
John Haigh, an Emeritus Reader in Mathematics, has joined the illustrious list of academics and experts to have contributed to Oxford University Press’s best-selling series of texts, A Very Short Introduction, by authoring one on Probability.
In nine concise chapters Haigh explores ideas of probability and different philosophical approaches to it, as well as giving tips on how to make good decisions under conditions of uncertainty.
For example, he suggests that the concept of “utility” - how useful certain outcomes would be - is a major factor in decision-making. If someone offers to give you £1, or the chance to win £10 depending on the toss of a coin, you might choose to gamble the £10 as winning this would be far more rewarding than the certainty of receiving £1. If you turned these figures into £1,000,000 and £10,000,000, you are more likely to opt for the certainty of the smaller figure. Haigh writes: “For small sums of money, having ten times as much usually is worth tens times as much. But if one million pounds would generate a certain amount of pleasure for you and your family, ten times that amount would not lead to double the pleasure.”