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Statistics Author of the Month - March: Tom Adams

Congratulations to Tom Adams, being named as CRC Press's Statistics Author of the Month for March 2019!

CRC Press is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Tom Adams!

Q&A with Tom Adams

Congratulations on the publication of your book, Improving Your NCAA® Bracket with Statistics and being named Statistics Author of the Month! What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
First, I hope to inspire a few young people to take an interest the field of statistics.  Statistics has a reputation for being painful “sadistics”.  I hope to show some readers that statistics can be a lot of fun.   Second, I wanted to write a book for readers who enjoy recreational mathematics.  Third, it’s for bracket pool players that want to improve their chances of winning.

What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
The book provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on science-based bracket pool strategy.  No other source provides a layman’s introduction to the academic research on bracket pool strategy.  It provides the most complete history of the bracket pool.
 
Is there one piece of research included in the book which surprised you or challenged your previous understanding of the topic?
I was surprised that a large-scale multiple entry strategy could be so lucrative. I was expecting to find that the diminishing return would trail off to a negative value after a limited number of mutually optimized bracket pool entries.

I gained more of an appreciation for the bracket pool as a challenging complex statistical problem.  We have learned a lot, but we have never really tamed it.  We have to resort to simulations to answer some questions and mathematicians (starting with von Neumann) have never been fully satisfied with having to do that.

And I was surprised to learn that even basic mathematical probability did not exist until the 16th Century, as far as we know. That’s 2000 years after the Pythagorean Theorem was discovered. I was learning and using the earliest history of statistical concepts to spice up the introduction of these concepts.
 
What is your academic background?
I have a BSc in the Computer Science option of the Mathematical Science and I minored in philosophy. I took only three statistics courses in college. But my first job out of school involved research support at a small toxicology research institute that did not have a statistician on staff.  I ended up helping researchers answer their statistical questions and that involved my learning more about applied statistics.
 
What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?
My most cited paper is “Statistical test for the comparison of samples from mutational spectra”.  This is used to analyse sparse tables that cross-classify specific DNA mutations versus treatments.  It seems that solving a practical problem for researchers is one way to produce a highly cited paper.
 
What first attracted you to mathematics as an area of study?
My earliest memory is of someone praising me for counting to 100. Maybe it was that.  Also, getting a math degree was more practical than a philosophy degree.  Philosophy degree holders do relatively well in the work world, but not with the job title “Philosopher”.

Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style?
My goal was to write a recreational math book that I would enjoy reading.  I like books that include the history of the concepts.   The bracket pool is not a very profound topic so I took some license to use humour and to deploy some sports statistics trash-talk and quirky metaphors.  For instance, I describe one figure as mirroring the frown of a basketball expert peering at it.  This figure is an inverted U-curve showing that pick-accuracy declines as basketball knowledge increases on the high end.  I am pretty sure that metaphor was inspired from reading “The Great Gatsby”.
 
 

Rob Calver

Senior Publisher

Mathematics, Physics, Statistics

Science and Medicine

Senior Publisher for Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics. Commissions books in statistics and data science.

[email protected]

Tom Adams

Tom Adams is the creator of Poologic, a website that has provided research-based advice on winning bracket pools since 2000. Poologic has been featured in the New York TimesSports IllustratedSmartMoney, and other publications. He is a systems analyst who has spent most of his career in scientific research support. He has publications in the area of statistics and probability. He has a BSc in mathematics from the University of North Carolina.

Reviews from the first edition of 'Analyzing Baseball with R'

"Tom Adams was creating statistical analyses and software to help laypeople better understand NCAA basketball tournament pools long before Nate Silver and others made such investigations cool and routine in political science, sports, and other areas of popular interest. The culmination of Tom's lifelong interest and activity in the area, this book explains all the key ideas in both bracket probability modeling and game theory. These key ideas enable the reader to make picks that have a good chance of actually happening, but which aren't also likely to simply duplicate the picks of other players in the pool. With a generous helping of illustrations, interesting historical tidbits, and even a review of currently available bracket advice sources, this book is a must-have for aspiring bracketologists interested in the data science tools that can give them an edge during March Madness." 

Brad Carlin, Counterpoint Statistical Consulting

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