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As troubling as we pattern-seeking humans may find it, modern science has repeatedly shown us that randomness is the underlying heartbeat of nature.
In Dice World, we take an incredible trip around our random universe, uncovering the truths and lies behind probability and statistics, explaining how chaotic intervention is behind every great success in business, and demonstrating the possibilities quantum mechanics has given us for creating unbreakable ciphers and undergoing teleportation.
We explore the way that the ‘clockwork universe’ imagined by Newton, in which everything could be predicted given enough data, was disproved bit by bit, to be supplanted by chaos theory and quantum physics. This is a world in which not only is accurate forecasting often impossible but probability is the only way for us to understand the fundamental nature of things.
Forget the clockwork universe. Welcome to Dice World, a unique portrait of a startlingly complex cosmos, from the bizarre microscopic world of the quantum to the unfathomable mechanics of planetary movements, where very little is as it seems …
Listen to Brian discuss Dice World and randommness with Alok Jha on the Guardian's Science Weekly podcast:
Or a somewhat longer interview with Jim Stein for the US New Books Network:
Trade (large) paperback
Here's my talk based on Dice World at The John Rylands Library as part of the Manchester Science Festival, courtesy of the Royal Society.
Read an extract:
ReviewsA fantastic look at the importance of randomness, full of interesting and philosophical ideas while still remaining open and accessible. Royal Society Winton Prize Judges
An exceptionally well written tour de force... during the course of his exposition, Brian introduces his readers to some mind-blowing conundrums. Graham Rand, Inside O. R.
This story of how probability, chaos and randomness affect our lives unfolds at such a pace that I was soon questioning many of my own pre-conceived ideas of what can and can’t be predicted. Brian Clegg discusses all aspects of the notion of ‘chance’: from everyday uses of statistics, such as weather forecasting and stock markets, to a final philosophical note on pre-determination and God. (Hats off to Clegg for not shying away from such contentious topics.) The significance of chaos and probability for explaining theories from quantum mechanics to the big bang is a pertinent reminder of how this maths underpins much of the evolution of physics research. All the usual suspects (Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Maxwell’s demon and Schrödinger’s cat) are there, and although these are common characters in popular science books, the perspective is still engaging, and you are left feeling enlightened about even the easily recognisable topics. Clegg’s writing style is highly readable, and the contemporary cultural references impressed upon me how recently this book was published, and how accessible it is. Dice World is recommended for anyone looking for a refresher course in familiar theories such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, or who would like to improve their knowledge of probability and statistics. Erin Withans, Chemistry World
In Dice World we learn not just about the quantum level forces that govern our world but also why the human brain has such a hard time processing, or accepting, randomness... Dice World's accessible style keeps the non-expert reader grounded even when Clegg ventures into such areas as quantum theory and chaos, and it is no roll of the dice to say that you will come away from this book learning something about the difference between the way the world really works and the way our brains are built to try to understand it. Ray Bert, Civil Engineering
Thankfully Brian Clegg is here to be our guide around the scary and fascinating random Universe. Comfortably placed within the contemporary pop-science spectrum Dice World takes us through the limitations of the ‘clockwork universe’, the potential predictability of chaos and the true randomness at the core of quantum theory. These often head-spinning subjects are rendered accessible, informative and provide many eureka moments… Yet underneath Clegg’s sci-geek anecdotes and amusing metaphors lies a seriousness to Dice World. Statistics and percentages are so ingrained into our daily lives and employed so frivolously by the media as proclamations of ‘truth’ that we have lost sight of what they actually mean… What Clegg presents here is a satisfying, subtle and compelling message that we don’t always need to seek out a definitive outcome, reason, or pattern to things and more often than not unpredictability is the best prediction. Jessika Green, TiP
In his delightful approach to visualising the complexity of randomness, Brian Clegg takes us on a well organised non-mathematical tour of the subject… Dice World will give you the keys to differentiating correlation from causality, random from pattern and phenomenal from mundane and lot more besides in this excellent review of the topic. Paul Little, Fortean Times
Chaos is not welcome, and this is where Clegg’s book comes into its own. In defining the two types of randomness, classical and chaotic, Clegg draws from theories as diverse as quantum physics and earthquake prediction, going into the hard sums that make up the rules by which both operate, and coming out the other end with a book that is methodical, clear, entertaining and just a bit mind-boggling. As editor of the Popular Science website, Clegg knows how to talk to his audience, and deftly explains the tough bits in plain language that is nicely accessible and not remotely random. Claire Looby, The Irish Times
Tackling quantum theory and James Clark Maxwell's demon, Bayesian probability and philosophies around free will in readable prose that average Joe can understand is no mean feat and Clegg rises admirably to the challenge. The Good Book Guide
In equal parts fascinating and mind-boggling this is a real revelation if you have any interest in why things happen (and why they go wrong). We're no good at probability and we hate randomness. We rarely see either of them at work - and yet they're everywhere. Clegg has a gift for making this kind of thing approachable and informative but still fun. Peet Morris, popularscience.co.uk
Brian Clegg takes us on a well organized non mathematical tour of the subject… Having done some statistics many years ago, the title of this book triggered a gut reflex concern that we were going into a labyrinth of mathematics from which my mind would never escape. Luckily, this was not case… This reflects Brian Clegg’s writing style in ‘Dice World’. He relies on words and anecdotes to bring the sometimes extremely abstract concepts into a very tangible reality. We can, with the aid of the book, demonstrate quantum effects in our living room. We also learn how to increase our chances of winning apparently random games. Creating true randomness is an essentially impossible oxymoron but what is both exciting and useful is the revelation that if we can relax for a minute and take a step back we can use the outcome of randomness to our benefit in all sorts of ways that Clegg describes eloquently. Paul Little, Little Ebook Reviews