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Dicing with Death

Dicing with Death
Chance, Risk and Health

$36.99 (G)

  • Date Published: November 2003
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521540230

$ 36.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • If you think that statistics has nothing to say about what you do or how you could do it better, then you are either wrong or in need of a more interesting job. Stephen Senn explains here how statistics determines many decisions about medical care--from allocating resources for health, to determining which drugs to license, to cause-and-effect in relation to disease. He tackles big themes: clinical trials and the development of medicines, life tables, vaccines and their risks or lack of them, smoking and lung cancer and even the power of prayer. He entertains with puzzles and paradoxes and covers the lives of famous statistical pioneers. By the end of the book the reader will see how reasoning with probability is essential to making rational decisions in medicine, and how and when it can guide us when faced with choices that impact our health and/or life. Stephen Senn has been a Professor of Pharmaceutical and Health Statistics at the University College of London since 1995. In 2001 he won George C. Challis Award of the University of Florida for contributions to biostatistics. Senn's previous two books are Statistical Issues in Drug Development (Wiley, 1997) and Cross-over Trials in Clinical Research (Wiley, 1993). He is the member of seven editorial boards including Statistics in Medicine and Pharmaceutical Statistics.

    • Explains vital importance of statistical and probabilistic reasoning in scientific medicine, for example in the MMR debate
    • Humorous style backed up by scholarship elucidate the subject, which is further illustrated by accounts of puzzling, paradoxical and potentially misleading phenomena
    • Biographical and historical material covers many of the pioneers of the subject
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Stephen Senn has attempted to do for medical statistics what Stephen Hawking did for physics in A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press, 1988) and Simon Singh did for pure mathematics in Fermat's Last Theorem (Fourth Estate, 1997). I think he has succeeded."
    British Medical Journal

    "...this work demonstrates an erudition and a breadth of knowledge not often found today. The author clearly enjoyed writing it and the reader will delight as much in the reading."
    Mathematical Reviews

    "Whether your taste is for the nitty-gritty of controversies, like the alleged link between childhood MMR vaccination and autism, or for pensive reflection on the philsophy of knowledge, you will find much of value here."
    New Scientist

    "Dicing with Death is worthwhile reading for just about any statistician. It also clarifies the key role data collection and analysis play in scientific discovery, so this book would be highly recommended as well to non-statisticians who work in fields that are based on data. Historians of science would also find this book enjoyable and informative."
    Computational Statistics

    "In Dicing with Death, Senn sets out to 'explain how important statistics is' and takes the reader on a wild, thought-provoking and always entertaining ride through biostatistics and beyond. Modern statistical science is the product of a long and fascinating history, and Senn delights in recounting the development of important ideas...Senn is often uproariously funny, which is remarkable in a book that covers so much technical, philosophical and historical ground."
    Canadian Medical Association Journal

    "Senn is urbane, charming, and often funny … you might need a dictionary occasionally, but otherwise you can read this in bed or on the beach, and it won't be out of place. Bandolier loved it."

    “What makes this book valuable is Senn's rich experience in both the pharmaceutical industry and academia. By weaving this experience with his wealth of knowledge of the history of medical statistics, he is able to tie together important concepts in a way that is both instructive and entertaining. Senn, Professor of Statistics at Glasgow University, has obviously polished many of these lessons from his teaching experience…Stephen Senn's book is an entertaining, thought-provoking collection of stories valuable for those who teach biostatistics.”
    Teaching of Statistics in the Health Sciences Newsletter

    "… an entertaining read, and a book to make you feel good about being a statistician? Very much so! … I defy pharmaceutical statisticians anywhere not to benefit … a great read. This is the ideal book for the pharmaceutical statistician who wants to broaden their knowledge of their chosen subject."
    Pharmaceutical Statistics

    "Dicing with Death is a rarity: a book about statistics for the general public … Senn certainly seems to have had fun … there is plenty of solid stuff mixed in with the fun. If you're tired of trying to persuade people that "statisticians count", why not take the easy way out and give them this book?"
    Journal of the Royal Statistical Society

    "The style of the book is discursive and it is very entertaining. In addition to being excellent for students and practitioners of the subject, it should be made essential reading for all those in public life who make critical decisions in the areas of medicine, politics, law and the media."
    Short Book Reviews

    "Exciting! Exquisite! Whoever thought reading a statistics book could never be exciting needs to read this book! … This is a book to recommend to anyone who seeks to learn and understand what statistics is all about and what (medical) statisticians really do. On the scale of 1-5 where 5 [stands for] 'definitely recommended', it rates a solid 5!"
    Statistics in Medicine

    "The book tackles a wide range of what to the public are quite difficult problems. However, Senn tackles these with such an elegant manner that even the most complex topics are presented with great clarity … Reading the book for this review has been a great pleasure - the enthusiasm of the author for his subject is clear and it rubs off onto the reader. … the book is suitable for just about any reader - be they interested members of the public or professional statisticians. All that is required is an inquisitive mind and a few spare hours!"
    Statistical Methods in Medical Research

    "Reading the book is like attending the lectures of a curmudgeonly but beloved professor...The real enjoyment of this book though comes with seeing the impact that the mathematical sciences can have when the outcomes are literally life and death."
    MAA Reviews, Steven R. Dunbar, University of Nebraska

    "Senn treats a variety of very important and interesting topics...Throughout the book Senn mixes history, practical applications, and some technical detail in thoroughly engaging prose. In fact, perhaps the best thing going for this book is the charming wit and style of its author...the work [is] very charming and enlightening."
    CQ Review

    "The book is a good entry into medical statistics. The reader will find all the standard topics, including design of experiments, significance testing, estimation, basic probability, regression, contingency tables, surveys, confounding, clinical trials, and Bayes's theorem. Almost all topics are discussed with examples and the personalities that developed or made them useful. There are also topics and biographies that an advanced reader (such as a statistics graduate student) will come across for the first time."
    The American Statistician

    "Senn's fluent writing style and acerbic wit keep the reader turning the pages. Forays into popular topics such as the MMR-autism controversy, frequent courtroom abuses of statistics by lawyers and journalists' misinterpretations of statistics (the 'post hoc passed hack fallacy', as Senn calls it) ensure that the fusion of history, mathematical theory and medical applications make for an entertaining and enlightening read.
    In the very first chapter, Senn writes, "I want to explain how important statistics is". It is fair to say that 'Dicing with Death' achieves this and so much more. It tells us that statistics is exciting, full of vibrant history and one of the key components in modern-day science. It is a book we all should have read nine years ago."
    Graham Wheeler, Significance

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2003
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521540230
    • length: 264 pages
    • dimensions: 233 x 155 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • contains: 35 b/w illus. 29 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Circling the square
    2. The diceman cometh
    3. Trials of life
    4. Of dice and men
    5. Sex and the single patient
    6. A hale view of pills
    7. Time's tables
    8. A dip in the pool
    9. Things that bug us
    10. The law is a ass
    11. The empire of the sum.

  • Author

    Stephen Senn, University College London
    Stephen Senn is a medical statistician with a varied career in industry, public health and academia. He has won the Bradford Hill medal of the Royal Statistical Society and the George C. Challis prize of the University of Florida. Senn is an honorary life member of ISCB and PSI and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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