Mathematical Models: Magical or Mistakes?
Manu Mehrotra & Ambika Mohan
ESCAPE FROM MODEL LAND: HOW MATHEMATICAL MODELS CAN LEAD US ASTRAY AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT by Erica Thompson Basic Books UK, London, Hatchette India, 2022, 256 pp., ₹ 899.00
June 2023, volume 47, No 6

So, are mathematical models magical or mistakes? Neither is what Erica Thompson systematically demonstrates in her book. She quotes statistician George Box, who said, ‘All models are wrong’, but then, goes on to highlight its second part, ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful.’

Mathematical models lie in a place somewhere between blind faith and total rejection—judicious application. The book explores the limitations and pitfalls of relying solely on mathematical models to understand complex systems. Thompson argues that while models can be useful tools, they should not be treated as infallible predictors of reality and that a more nuanced approach is needed to truly understand the world around us. That seems obvious for so many things, not just mathematical models. Erica Thompson, however, goes into the depth of the subject—from the perspective of a teacher of mathematics; the book serves as a succinct tutorial, thus, enabling the reader to glean why and how to be prudent about using models.

Continue reading this review