Friday, November 8, 2013

Review - Who's Bigger?

Who's Bigger by Steven Skiena and Charles B. Ward. Published by Cambridge University Press. Available at most retailers.

This is a fascinating book with an extremely interesting concept. The authors use the incredible power of the internet, Wikipedia, and Google's Ngrams to create a mathematical rating system (significance) for people, both current and historical. They then use these data to compare people in many areas, professions, and times. They explain their processes and calculation very well and then provide comparisons with "experts" and "Top 100" lists, etc. to validate that what they measure is actually doing the job.

Then they delve into literally scores of categories to compare the most significant figures. Was Thomas Edison more significant than Alexander Graham Bell or Eli Whitney? Who was the most significant world leader between the world wars? Which King or Pope had the most long-term significance? They do admit that the data in Anglo-centric, all of the data is in English, and they have made a correction for recency.

All in all it is fascinating to wander through their tables and graphs and see where my personal favorites fell. One criticism I have is that there is really too much data and too many categories and too many comparisons. It would have been better to focus in more depth on fewer categories and dive deeper into the data, leaving the more esoteric areas to another volume or to the internet (they have a very nice companion website).

For everyone interested in history and interested in numerical comparisons (for any area - baseball, business, the arts, etc.) the book is highly recommended.

This blogger received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

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