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The Maths of Life and Death

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781787475427

Price: £20

ON SALE: 5th September 2019

Genre: Mathematics / Mathematics & Science

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“This is an exquisitely interesting book. It’s a deeply serious one too and, for those like me who have little maths, it’s delightfully readable – IAN MCEWAN

“An exciting new voice in the world of science communication” – MARCUS DU SAUTOY

“An extremely thoughtful, articulate and accessible insight into mathematics in the real world” – ALEX BELLOS

“Kit Yates is a brilliant explainer and storyteller– STEVEN STROGATZ

Maths is the story of the world around us, and the wisdom it gives us can be the difference between success and disaster.

We are all doing maths all the time, from the way we communicate with each other to the way we travel, from how we work to how we relax. Many of us are aware of this. But few of us really appreciate the full power of maths – the extent to which its influence is not only in every office and every home, but also in every courtroom and hospital ward.

In this eye-opening and extraordinary book, Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application – or misapplication – of mathematics has played a critical role: patients crippled by faulty genes and entrepreneurs bankrupted by faulty algorithms; innocent victims of miscarriages of justice and the unwitting victims of software glitches. We follow stories of investors who have lost fortunes and parents who have lost children, all because of mathematical misunderstandings.

Along the way, Yates arms us with simple mathematical rules and tools that can help us make better decisions in our increasingly quantitative society. You will discover why it’s always sensible to question a statistic, often vital to ask for a second opinion and sometimes surprisingly handy to stick to the 37% rule…


Used wisely, mathematics can save your life. Used unwisely, it can ruin it. A lucid and enthralling account of why maths matters in everyone's life. A real eye-opener
Prof Ian Stewart FRS, author of Do Dice Play God?
An extremely thoughtful, articulate and accessible insight into mathematics in the real world
Alex Bellos
Kit Yates is a natural storyteller. Through fascinating stories and examples, he shows how maths is the beating heart of so much of modern life. An exciting new voice in the world of science communication
Marcus du Sautoy, author of The Creativity Code
Kit Yates is a brilliant explainer and storyteller
Steven Strogatz
If you think a deep love of maths would be within your grasp were you only presented with enough real life examples to reveal the wonder of its operations, this is the book for you
Strong Words Magazine
At times witty, at times charming, at times sombre, but always personable
This crisp, clear and compelling book is about the liminal spaces between expertise in mathematics and hardline decision-making, taking you on a powerful journey about truth and belief and what maths actually is, out in the wild
The Times Educational Supplement
An accessible and important introduction to understanding the use and abuse of statistics
Laura Tisdall
A thoughtful, important and accessible book on the vital role mathematics plays in our everyday lives
Jim Al-Khalili
An engaging, enjoyable look at how phenomena spread and go viral, examining everything from the ice-bucket challenge, pyramid schemes and the way that milk turns sour
Irish Examiner
Engaging and lucid
London Mathematical Society Journal
An endlessly fascinating book
Half Man, Half Book
A fascinating glimpse of mathematical epidemiology. A dizzying, dazzling debut
Nature Magazine
A splendid guide to the mathematical ideas all around us
Tim Harford, bestselling author of 'How to Make the World Add Up'
You'll almost forget you're learning as you fall into Kit's world, but when you close the book, you'll look at every fact and figure with new scrutiny
BBC Science Focus
This is an interesting, useful and important book on some serious topics involving mathematics... There are quotable morsels of wisdom in every chapter
The Mathematical Gazette
Kit Yates shows how our private and social lives are suffused by mathematics. Ignorance may bring tragedy or farce. This is an exquisitely interesting book. It's a deeply serious one too and, for those like me who have little maths, it's delightfully readable
Ian McEwan