Bayes' rule found AF 447

May 11, 2012

Tags: AF 447, Air France flight 447, Bayes, Metron, Theory That Would Not Die

Few realize the key role played by a long-discredited 18th century mathematical theory in finding and recovering the wreckage of AF 447.

After a fruitless two-year search for Air France Flight 447, Bayes’ rule pointed to its most probable location—where it was found after only one week of undersea searching.

The 2009 crash of AF 447 was one of the most mysterious accidents in aviation history. (more…)

A New (& little) take on the Periodic Table

May 6, 2012

I just read and enjoyed The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction, by Eric R. Scerri (Oxford 2012).

The periodic table of the elements is one of the icons of science. As author Eric Scerri writes, “The periodic table ranks as one of the most fruitful and unifying ideas in the whole of modern science, (more…)

Bill Bryson's Curious Take on Bayes

April 9, 2012

Tags: Alan Turing, Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Seeing Further, Bayes, The Theory That Would Not Die, McGrayne

Bill Bryson’s interesting comments about the Rev. Thomas Bayes—comments repeated in two of his recent bestsellers and in a speech before the Royal Society of London—may leave a misleading impression.

Curiously, Bryson says that Bayes’ theorem had “no practical applications at all in his own lifetime.” In fact, Bayes’ theorem was (more…)

CHANCE features Theory/Die

March 3, 2012

Tags: CHANCE, interview, review

CHANCE magazine this week: ”The Theory That Would Not Die is ...carefully balanced to be accessible to a lay audience while captivating to a statistical one. Told without formulas, this eloquently written story is the history of an idea—a far-from-exhaustive, but enlightening, chronicle of the triumphs of Bayesian analysis.”

CHANCE's cover story is an interview with me about writing the book.

Chance editors interviewed me extensively – in Paris, in Maryland, in Washington DC., and by email. They asked probing questions– including my opinion of some of the book's critics on

The issue also has a review by Christian Robert and a Letter from Editor Sam Behseta.

Chance is the American Statistical Association’s magazine for general readers interested in analyzing data.

And who are the three men on the cover? Laplace is front and center – where he should be. Thomas Bayes is on the left and Harold Jeffreys on the right.

Bayes at Microsoft Research

February 27, 2012

Tags: Microsoft Research Talk

Tracing the origins of spam filters back to the U-boat battles of World War II. Hearing about Stanford's lack of interest in probabilities in the late 1980s. And an intriguing question: Was Bill Gates a Bayesian?

Turing Still Not Pardoned

February 23, 2012

Tags: Turing, Pardon

The British government has refused to issue a posthumous pardon to computer pioneer Alan Turing.
Despite petitions from Turing fans worldwide, the Conservative government of David Cameron nixed a pardon.
The decision came three years after the Labor Party government of Gordon Brown apologized for Britain’s treatment of Turing.
Turing, who used Bayes’ rule to break the Nazis’ Enigma code to save his country during World War II, was arrested as a homosexual in 1952 and committed suicide in 1954. (more…)

Palomares Cleanup

February 23, 2012

Tags: Palomares, h-bomb

Spain has announced that the US may cleanup the results of an H-bomb accident it caused in the little village of Palomares 46 years ago.

Almost half a century after the U.S. Air Force accidentally dropped four hydrogen bombs near a remote Spanish fishing village, the Obama administration may help clean up plutonium-polluted soil (more…)

Bayesian Math Problems

February 23, 2012

Tags: Math, problems

Readers have asked how they can learn to calculate Bayesian problems. So I asked the experts for some help. They responded with some problems that are now on my website Go to the page for simple math problems, and click on the link there.

Selected Works

The non-mathematical story of the fight over Bayes' rule and its ultimate triumph.

"A rollicking tale of the triumph of a powerful mathematical tool."
"If you are not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be." John Allen Paulos, New York Times Book Review.
Editor's Choice, New York Times Book Review.
Biographies of 15 women scientists who won a Nobel Prize—or came very close.

“Spellbinding, compelling.”
—The Science Teacher
Biographies of nine chemists whose discoveries solved serious social and technological problems.

“A compelling read… fascinating.”

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