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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Pakistan’s Bhutto Gambles in Trade Negotiations

On Dice and Bluffing

The job of a newspaper reporter is to tell stories and to emphasize the role of the agent in any narrative. A number of segments in this book demonstrate, however, that the real story is often as dependent on chance as on intention. But what would you think of a political leader who made some important political decisions by a flip of the coin or a roll of the dice? Irresponsible? Superstitious? Nihilistic? How about rational? It’s an intriguing consequence of the mathematical discipline of game theory that the conscious randomizing of choices can, if done right, maximize one’s effectiveness.

In sports, the critical element of bluff is easier to see, so let me describe a typical ...

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