What the Luck? The Surprising Role of Chance in Our Everyday Lives

Overlook. Sept. 2016. 304p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781468313758. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468313918. MATH
Wales, a country not especially known for its footballing prowess, recently made it to the semifinals of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Championship. However, in the semifinals, they lost to Portugal, ranked eighth. Football analysts and fans alike wrote about how "they simply got tired" and "the weight of expectation became too heavy." Perhaps. Yet according to Smith (economics, Pomona Coll.; Standard Deviation: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways To Lie with Statistics), their failure was more likely owing to "regression to the mean," a statistical explanation of chance. Wales was performing above their ability; regression to the mean dictates that, after a massive game beating the second-best team in the world, Wales returned to performing closer to their skill level. Smith provides examples from almost every aspect of everyday life, from sports and education to business and health, in an accessible and enjoyable exploration of the role of luck in our lives.
VERDICT For anyone interested in statistics, fantasy sports players, and those curious about the role of chance.
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