Millions, Billions, Zillions: Defending Yourself in a World of Too Many Numbers

Brian W. Kernighan

“Numbers can frequently be frightening, perplexing, or even purposefully misleading—especially when they are really large. While the media enjoys reporting on millions, billions, and trillions, they regularly make simple errors or depict these figures in deceptive ways. Furthermore, misinterpreting numbers can have detrimental effects because they can influence many of our most crucial decisions, such as how to vote, what to buy, and whether to make an investment. Leading computer scientist Brian Kernighan shows anyone—even die-hard math phobics—how to demystify the numbers that confront us every day in this brief, approachable, educational, and amusing book.

Kernighan shows how numbers may deceive and distort using examples from a wide range of fields, such as journalism, advertising, and politics. He exposes everything from deceitful diagrams to falsely accurate numbers in chapters on huge numbers, units, dimensions, and more. And he demonstrates how anyone can learn to spot frequent errors, assess the veracity of figures, and create their own accurate estimations when necessary by applying a few fundamental concepts and a variety of shortcuts.

Millions, Billions, and Billions are a crucial survival manual for a society drowning in big—and frequently bad—data. It provides you with the straightforward tools you need to avoid being duped by questionable statistics.”