Google full text of our books:


Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers
Paul J. Nahin

Paperback | 2012 | $18.95 | ($11.37) / £12.95 | (£7.77) | ISBN: 9780691155005
304 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 65 line illus. 42 computer sim.
Add to Shopping Cart

eBook | ISBN: 9781400843046 |
Our eBook editions are available from these online vendors

Reviews | Table of Contents
Introduction[PDF] pdf-icon

Google full text of this book:

What are your chances of dying on your next flight, being called for jury duty, or winning the lottery? We all encounter probability problems in our everyday lives. In this collection of twenty-one puzzles, Paul Nahin challenges us to think creatively about the laws of probability as they apply in playful, sometimes deceptive, ways to a fascinating array of speculative situations. Games of Russian roulette, problems involving the accumulation of insects on flypaper, and strategies for determining the odds of the underdog winning the World Series all reveal intriguing dimensions to the workings of probability. Over the years, Nahin, a veteran writer and teacher of the subject, has collected these and other favorite puzzles designed to instruct and entertain math enthusiasts of all backgrounds.

If idiots A and B alternately take aim at each other with a six-shot revolver containing one bullet, what is the probability idiot A will win? What are the chances it will snow on your birthday in any given year? How can researchers use coin flipping and the laws of probability to obtain honest answers to embarrassing survey questions? The solutions are presented here in detail, and many contain a profound element of surprise. And some puzzles are beautiful illustrations of basic mathematical concepts: "The Blind Spider and the Fly," for example, is a clever variation of a "random walk" problem, and "Duelling Idiots" and "The Underdog and the World Series" are straightforward introductions to binomial distributions.

Written in an informal way and containing a plethora of interesting historical material, Duelling Idiots is ideal for those who are fascinated by mathematics and the role it plays in everyday life and in our imaginations.


"Nahin's sophisticated puzzles, and their accompanying explanations, have a far better than even chance of fascinating and preoccupying the mathematically literate readership they seek."--Publisher's Weekly

"An entertaining, thought-provoking collection of twenty-one puzzles. . . .These puzzles invite the reader to think intuitively, mathematically, and creatively about the laws of probability as they apply in lighthearted, often counterintuitive ways to a diverse collection of practical and speculative situations."--Mathematics Teacher

"By following Nahin's informal style it is possible to set [the examples] up quickly from first principles and slip them into courses on calculus, algebra, or scientific programming. They also offer a wealth of topics for undergraduate projects. Those duelling idiots are fighting over a goldmine."--Des Higham, MSOR Connections


"For those of us who thoroughly enjoy a good puzzle, Duelling Idiots is indeed a welcome book. What Paul Nahin offers is essentially the mathematical equivalent of a collection of Far Side cartoons: a series of quirky vignettes, each with an amusing punchline that reveals something new about an offbeat aspect of reality."--Mark Denny, Stanford University

"Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers seeks to teach the fundamentals of elementary probability theory using topics that are familiar to most everyone. Its light-hearted way of explaining serious subjects is a refreshing approach."--Robert B. Banks, author of Towing Icebergs, Falling Dominoes and of Slicing Pizzas, Racing Turtles

Table of Contents

This book has been translated into:

  • Japanese

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Paul J. Nahin:



Subject Areas:


Shopping Cart:

  • For ebooks:

Our eBook editions are available
from these online vendors:

  • Amazon Kindle Store
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Store
  • Google Play eBook Store
  • Intel Education Study eBook Store
  • Kobo eBook Store
  • Many of our ebooks are available through
    library electronic resources including these platforms:

  • Books at JSTOR
  • Ebrary
  • Ebook Library
  • EBSCO Ebooks
  • MyiLibrary
  • Dawsonera (UK)

  • For hardcover/paperback orders in United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, and Australia

     Paperback $18.95 | ($11.37) ISBN: 9780691155005

    Add to shopping cart
    View contents of your shopping cart

    For hardcover/paperback orders in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan

     Paperback £12.95 | (£7.77) ISBN: 9780691155005

    Add to shopping cart
    View contents of your shopping cart

    Prices subject to change without notice

    File created: 11/20/2015

    Questions and comments to:
    Princeton University Press

    fall saleHoliday Sale
    New Book E-mails
    New In Print
    PUP Blog
    Princeton APPS
    Sample Chapters
    Princeton Legacy Library
    Exam/Desk Copy
    Recent Awards
    Princeton Shorts
    Freshman Reading
    PUP Europe
    About Us
    Contact Us
    PUP Home

    Bookmark and Share
    Send me emails
    about new books in:
    Applied Science And Engineering
    Popular Science
    Computer Science
    More Choices