Reading Conned Again, Watson! (2007-10-24/28)

We all lose time and money every day to bad decisions. Often, we are not even aware of it. We continue in blissful ignorance, happy in the illusion that our native common sense is doing a good job of guiding us.
--Colin Bruce, Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math, and Probability

In my apartment the week following my emergency appendectomy, sometimes I had the energy to read (as opposed to only energy enough to watch Battlestar Galactica). As a break from personal finance books, I read entertaining Sherlock Holmes tales that were also instructional. Like Blink, Bruce's book is ultimately about decision-making. Conned Again, Watson! incorporates paradoxes and problems into nearly every chapter:
  1. "The Case of the Unfortunate Businessman" discusses the "cab driver's fallacy", the prior investment fallacy, and the fallacy of mistaking relative for absolute savings. It begins with a scam modeled after The Big Con.
  2. "The Case of the Gambling Nobleman" discusses the gambler's fallacy and the Martingale betting system.
  3. "The Case of the Surprise Heir" includes the birthday paradox.
  4. "The Case of the Ancient Mariner" connects the drunkard's walk to Pascal's triangle, and both to the normal distribution.
  5. "The Case of the Unmarked Graves" illustrates both the Monty Hall problem (using probability trees) and the Wason test.
  6. "The Case of the Martian Invasion" explores permutations in Bible codes and failure rates.
  7. "Three Cases of Unfair Preferment" includes one with nontransitive dice.
  8. "The Execution of Andrews" discusses the conditional probability fallacy using contingency tables.
  9. "Three Cases of Relative Honor" describes game theory games similar to the Prisoner's Dilemma, including one similar to Arthur Conan Doyle's in "The Adventure of the Final Problem."
  10. "The Case of the Poor Observer" discusses the problem of drawing conclusions from limited observations.
  11. "The Case of the Perfect Accountant" mentions Benford's law.
  12. "Three Cases of Good Intentions" discusses the theory of double-blind medical trials.