David Orrell

David Orrell. Writer and Mathematician

Apollo's Arrow:
The Science of Prediction and the Future of Everything
(U.S. title The Future of Everything)

» N° 6 on Maclean's national besteller list
» N°5 Shanghai Daily News English-language business book
» Finalist: Canadian Science Writers' Association book award

Publishers: Harper Collins (Canada), Basic Books (US), Hayakawa (Japan), Woongjin Thinkbig (Korea), Hainan (China)

Publisher's synopsis

The national bestseller that takes a new look at looking at the future.

From seers to scientists, mystics to meterologists, there have always been people who claim to know what will happen in the future. The Oracle at Delphi, Pythagoras, Newton, and the stock analyst on the business report have all endeavoured to look forward in time. But even with recent technological advances and the help of computers and satellites, are we any better at predicting the future now than in the distant past? How can scientists claim to predict future climate events when even three-day forecasts prove a serious challenge? In Apollo's Arrow, David Orrell looks at the history of prognostication to show how scientists (and charlatans) have tried to forecast the future, then breaks down the mathematics of what really goes into a predictive model. A compelling, elegantly written history of our future that addresses some of the most important issues of our time.

“Not since the time of the medieval astrologers has so much effort been put by so many into predicting the future. From economics to healthcare to climatology, the science of forecasting is everywhere - and so is the hype and hucksterism. David Orrell is one of the few experts able and willing to reveal the truth about what we can and cannot know about the future." Robert A.J. Matthews, author of 25 Big Ideas: The Science That's Changing Our World

“An impressive and wide-ranging discussion of the importance and the difficulties of predicting future events...written in a clear, accessible style.... My own prediction is that readers will enjoy this book and will come away with lots to think about." Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, author of Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities


“Orrell's writing is top-notch ... somehow finding exactly the right mix of anecdote, broad brush and humour.” The globe and mail

“An engaging, as well as deeply insightful, discussion on the difficult task of prediction ... it can change the way you view forecasting.” Foresight

“A new, universal theory of prediction scepticism ... a real eye-opener." Asahi Shimbun, review in Japanese

“With wit, humour, and clarity Apollo's Arrow gives a good overview of the history of science as a predictive tool ... [It has] the potential to change the way we plan for the future, both personally, and as a society." Winnipeg Free Press

“By looking back into the history of telling the future and giving a detailed description of the current state of forecasting, especially its unmanageable limitations, Orrell makes a convincing case that forecasting with precision is a mission impossible." Shanghai Daily

“Even big-picture predictions - global warming, impending pandemics, the global impact of consumerism, emerging technologies such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology - seem less overwhelming after this enlightening history lesson ... Some of his most eloquent and provocative passages are about those unpredictable forces known as free will and personal choice, and he rallies us all to effect positive change." Canadian Geographic

“If you loathe uncertainty, can't cope with complexity or prefer easy (yet wrong) solutions to complex problems, you may not appreciate this book. On the other hand, you will likely find it reassuring, even empowering perhaps, to know that the 'experts' can be wrong, and that common sense is still useful." Edmonton Journal

“The special and enchanted land of forecasting is inhabited by tribes of specialists who speak a language that is unintelligible to most of us. David Orrell's The Future of Everything is a wonderful guide and companion to that land; its history, its valuable resources and its fault lines. And it still manages to be a good read." Everett Herald

“Mathematician David Orrell [explains] why the mathematical models scientists use to predict the weather, the climate and the economy are not getting any better, just more refined in their uncertainty ... Dr. Orrell is no climate-change denier. He calls himself green. But he understands the unjustified faith that arises from the psychological need to make predictions." The National Post

“The author threads together science, history, economics, philosophy ... Fully enjoyable." The Korea Times, review in Korean

“A compelling discussion of real world complexities and human fallibility ... certain to contribute to scholarly and intellectual debate on the use of models in decision making." Ecological Complexity. Volume 5, Issue 1, March 2008, Pages 69-70

Chemistry in industry Vol. 57 No.7-8 July 2008. Review in Croatian.

“Offers the latest research and methods, examining how past scientists predicted the future and how modern scientists forecast events ... a grounded, rational examination which considers the pros, cons and uncertainties of prediction science." Midwest Book Review

“A fascinating, very readable look at the accuracy of modern forecasting ... The fiscal and commercial relevance of his advice is startlingly clear in the light of recent natural disasters." getabstract.com

Reader reviews from Amazon.com (Future of Everything, see also here for Apollo's Arrow), Amazon.co.jp, Amazon.de

Blogs: Well Sharp, Shvoong.com, The Customer Knowledge Advantage, Future 2.0, The Reference Frame, Jeff's Blog, Crawl Across The Ocean (spoof of National Post review), The Way The River Goes, NC Media Watch, Polymath at Large, Rucykay's Planet (Korean), Proyecto A1 (Spanish)