A few months ago, I read the wonderful book Thinking, Fast and Slow by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, describing the research that led to his Nobel (in economics). This book, by famous non-fiction author Michael Lewis is the "outside view" of Kahneman's remarkable life and research, and that of his longtime collaborator Aron Tversky. (Kahneman and Tversky are referred to as "Danny" and "Aron" throughout; I'll return the favor by calling Lewis "Mike" here.)
Things are especially compelling in the early going: Danny was born in Tel Aviv in 1934, but spent his early childhood in France. He was Jewish. Friend, you can do the math here: much of his early life was spent close to horrible death. Lewis relates this dark story with many odd and compelling details.
Aron's background was slightly less hectic: he was born, and stayed in what-was-to-become-Israel during WWII. But (here's a story), while training with the Israeli army in the mid-50s, Arib was present when another soldier fainted on top of a bangalore torpedo he had just armed to clear a barbed wire barrier. Against orders, Aron trotted over to the doomed soldier, dragged him away from the torpedo, and fell on top of him before the explosion. Amos got a lifetime supply of shrapnel embedded in his back. And a medal. And advice from Moshe Dayan: "You did a very stupid and brave thing and you won't get away with it again."
Aron died in 1996 of cancer. They don't award the Nobel to dead people, unfortunately.
Anyway: Mike is one of the best at telling these stories that combine personal stories with a lot of geeky detail, in this case psychology. I'd recommend reading this book, before or after Danny's.
What I noticed: Mike notes the career progress of Don Redelmeier, a Candadian doctor who wound up doing some work with Aron. One of Don's insights was spurred by a brain-dead helmetless motorcyclist who'd run into a tree: people were bad at judging risks, "even when their misjudgment might kill them." And there's a small advocacy of mandatory helmet laws.
This is kind of a bugaboo of mine, that misses an important point: people have wildly differing appetites for risk. I'm wary of people who pretend there's a "right" level for acceptable risk, and want to back that up with legislation.
Worse: Danny's two-pack-daily cigarette habit is mentioned, without similar comment. How risky was that? (Note: Danny's still alive and kicking at age 83.)