# [LINK] Google Talks: Author lectures about the history of Bayes' Theorem.

post by Eneasz · 2011-08-24T16:45:17.227Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 3 comments

Authors@Google, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne discusses her book "The Theory That Would Not Die" How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oD6eBkjF9o

She traces its discovery by an amateur mathematician in the 1740s through its development into roughly its modern form by French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace. She reveals why respected statisticians rendered it professionally taboo for 150 years—at the same time that practitioners relied on it to solve crises involving great uncertainty and scanty information, even breaking Germany's Enigma code during World War II, and explains how the advent of off-the-shelf computer technology in the 1980s proved to be a game-changer.

## 3 comments

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I read the book recently and was unimpressed. She both didn't discuss the math in any substantial detail (to the point where you could plausibly read the entire book and not really understand what Bayes's theorem was in a useful enough way to actually apply it), she conflated the issue of priors with essentially that of uniform priors and never discusses other types of priors, and she didn't give a satisfying explanation of why Bayesian reasoning was eventually considered acceptable. She also never discussed the philosophical impact of Bayesianism, keeping it restricted to essentially statistical issues.

After watching the video i think i understand why.

She explains in the video that she is a journalist and not very good at math or statistics. Her book and the video are more a history of the theory than an explanation of its use.

This is something of a non sequitur but I read this comment through the recent comments sidebar and thought this was in the HPMOR thread and you were talking about Hermione.

Your comment is thoughtfully provocative under several readings, and I am glad I caught my mistake before posting my original reply to this comment.