Sharon Bertsch McGrayne: The Theory That Would Not Die

A new Authors@Google Talk by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne:

“The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy”

Bayes‘ rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.
The Theory That Would Not Die (Book Cover)
In the first-ever account of Bayes’ rule for general readers, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores this controversial theorem and the human obsessions surrounding it. She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. She reveals why respected statisticians rendered it professionally taboo for 150 years—at the same time that practitioners relied on it to solve crises involving great uncertainty and scanty information, even breaking Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, and explains how the advent of off-the-shelf computer technology in the 1980s proved to be a game-changer. Today, Bayes’ rule is used everywhere from DNA de-coding to Homeland Security.

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of numerous books, including Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries and Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World. She is a prize-winning former reporter for Scripps-Howard, Gannett, Crain’s, and other newspapers and has spoken at many scientific conferences, national laboratories, and universities in the United States and abroad. She lives in Seattle with her husband, George F. Bertsch, professor of physics at the University of Washington.

Also see John Allen Paulos’ review of the book in The New York Times.
To get a great intro on the Bayes Theorem read Elizier Yudkowsky’s An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem.
Finally, there’s a visual introduction to Bayes’ Theorem by Oscar Bonilla.

David Cannadine: The Construction of National Identities

Via ABC’s Big Ideas:

The wartime memoirs of Charles de Gaulle open with a celebrated evocation of his native land: “a certain idea of France”. The words express the widely-held view of the nation as the most significant focus and resonant form of collective human identity, the end point to which the whole of history was inexorably tending, initially in Europe, and eventually throughout the whole world.

In the course of his lecture at Melbourne University’s Festival of Ideas, British historian David Cannadine looks at the evidence for such a proposition and the evidence against. He also explores the part historians themselves have played in the creation and the undermining of national identities. Will the notion of the nation survive in an increasingly globalised world where boundaries are more porous and less defined than ever before?

Sir David Cannadine is the Whitney J Oates Senior Research Scholar within the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is also a history lecturer and author working within the university. Cannadine is the author of twelve books, including “The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy”, “Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire”, “Mellon: An American Life” and “Making History Now and Then”.