I hear a lot about the dangers of all that personal data we’re feeding the internet these days and I’ve always been a bit perplexed. Sure, be careful what you put out there but it’s hard to imagine being able to pull much sense out of random clicks, let alone use it for nefarious purposes. (I have to concede it does work though. I see a lot of those targeted ads for craft stuff and travel. Y’all, the internet knows me creepily well.)

So I found Dataclysm by Christian Rudder fascinating. Hey, I guess you can get some sense from those random clicks. A lot of his examples are from OKCupid but there are also some from Twitter and Google. In case the prospect of online daters being representative of humanity worries you a little. (Not that I’m opposed to online dating; I think about it sometimes then I remember how many jerks apparently live on the internet.) And it’s a nifty change from all those coin flipping, dice rolling, card shuffling examples you see in most general interest math books. (A person could start wondering if all mathematicians have gambling problems.)

Seeing as I’m such a nerd, I kind of wished there was more detail about the data and methodology, but I suppose that would be wishing it was a different sort of book. It’s aimed at non-math nerds who aren’t sure how the internet is spying on us. Many charts and few equations.

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