Work has caught up with me yet again, so here are three interesting stories to wile the time away.
The probability of a coin flip
Reader Ari Schwartz sent in this link, from Slate, a book excerpt from David Adler. He quotes from Persi Diaconis and Susan Holmes, who discover that coin flips are predictable if you know their initial conditions. Regular readers won’t be shocked by this (Persi was briefly my advisor at Cornell, and Susan is his wife; they are now at Stanford).
Three academicsâ€”Persi Diaconis, Susan Holmes, and Richard Montgomeryâ€”through vigorous analysis made an interesting discovery at Stanford University. As they note in their published results, “Dynamical Bias in the Coin Toss,” laws of mechanics govern coin flips, meaning, “their flight is determined by their initial conditions.”
I’m not keen all of Adler’s language, but the story is worth reading.
Screening for terrorists
The BBC ran a piece that shows that false positives and false negatives in screening for terrorists are important. This is the standard Bayes Theory introduction, and is never stale. Here it is on mammograms.
How do you spell condescension?
In an earlier interview, Murray states what I have always found obvious: some people are smarter than others (we only disagree on the validity of “IQ” as a measure of this). His Times interlocutor—her superiority liquid and dripping—says, “I believe that given the opportunity, most people could do most anything.”
This is utterly false and a fact so well known it is always breathtaking to hear somebody utter it.