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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Recession Forecast If Steps Not Taken

Unpredictability, Chaos, and Pooh-Poohing the Pooh-Bahs

I find reading old newspaper analyses, government press releases, and bygone bits of punditry both sobering and entertaining. They often seem to presuppose that political and economic matters are, with a little thought and perhaps some calculation, more or less predictable. Obviously, such matters are not very predictable, and there are some surprising mathematical reasons why they are not.

These mathematical reasons ensure that much economic and political commentary and forecast are fatuous nonsense, no more on target than the farmer marksman with hundreds of chalked bull’s-eyes on the wall of his barn, each with a bullet hole in its center. When asked ...

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