Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Casting Light on the Shadow of Doubt": Review of The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability before Pascal, by James Franklin. Reviewed by Jane Hawkins. Science, 19 October 2001, page 528.

In the mid-1600s, Pascal and Fermat formalized the field of probability theory, which helped to establish notions of certainty, evidence, and proof. The author of the book, a mathematician and philosopher, discusses the ways in which mathematics can---and often cannot---offer certainty and proof. "Casting the widest possible net over risk, evidence, and probability of the past, [Franklin] treats us to scholars' and religious leaders' views on gambling, insurance contracts, trial evidence, scientitic theories, and proof of the existence of God," the reviewer writes. "His helpful commentary is sprinkled with dry wit along the way."

--- Allyn Jackson