The 9 Weirdest Implications Of The Many Worlds Interpretation

According to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, we live in an infinite web of alternate timelines. It's a serious claim that carries some rather serious scientific, philosophical, and existential baggage. And here are the nine weirdest possible implications. » 3/23/15 10:00am 3/23/15 10:00am

What Are the Odds That You Might See a Meteoroid While Skydiving?

You've seen the footage of a rock falling past a skydiver. It looks like this particular object might be a rock accidentally packed in his parachute. So we've done the statistical analysis to figure out what the real chances are that a skydiver would eventually see a meteoroid. » 4/09/14 11:25pm 4/09/14 11:25pm

The Counter-Intuitive Way to Win Big in a Game Show

You are on a game show, and get to choose between three doors. Behind one is a grand prize. Behind the others there's nothing. But there's a twist — and it can double your chances of winning. Welcome to the Monty Hall Problem. » 4/01/14 12:30pm 4/01/14 12:30pm

How to manipulate people into choosing the worst option

When we are choosing which action to take, one of the most basic calculations which guide us is, "How likely is it to lead to one option or another." We need to think of all possible outcomes, and the rough probability of each one occurring. There is a problem with this. We are not great at assessing probability. … » 3/06/14 8:00am 3/06/14 8:00am

The brain injury that finally makes us as smart as rats

There's a simple cognitive test that humans tend to fail— at least, they fail when their performance is compared to the performance of rats. Why? Because our brains screw us up. But a specific brain injury can bring us up to rat-level. » 3/04/14 9:40am 3/04/14 9:40am

How near-complete certainty can make you completely wrong

Ever been asked to settle something beyond a reasonable doubt? Ever taken part in a cause in which the evidence is overwhelming? Ever been completely sure you're right? Sure you have. Plenty of times. So many times that occasionally, you have to have been wrong. » 3/02/14 12:00pm 3/02/14 12:00pm

Why the Exact Same Lottery Numbers Came Up Twice in One Week

In 2009, the Bulgarian lottery turned the same number sequence twice within five days. Naturally, this made people a tad suspicious. After all, the odds of the same number sequence appearing twice in a row are millions to one against. But actually, it wasn't that suspicious at all. » 2/04/14 9:00am 2/04/14 9:00am

Is your roulette hot streak based on more than random chance?

When stepping into a casino, it can be useful to have a clear sense of how probability works and how it applies to the games that you're playing. In today's discussion about gambling however, we're reminded that a gambler's fortune can depend on more than just random odds. » 1/08/14 4:20pm 1/08/14 4:20pm

Do boys have more sisters than girls do?

One of the famous intuitive mistakes in probability comes from the simple question, "Do boys have more sisters than girls do?" A quick analysis of the situation may prompt you to say yes. A more in-depth look might change your mind. » 11/22/13 8:40am 11/22/13 8:40am

That time when Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat helped a gambler

Blaise Pascal was 17th century genius who invented the mechanical calculator. Pierre de Fermat is famous for a theorem that took three hundred years to prove. What could bring these two minds together? A washed up gambler, down on his luck. » 10/28/13 12:24pm 10/28/13 12:24pm

The central limit theorem, explained with bunnies and dragons

Animator Shuyi Chiou and the folks at CreatureCast give an adorable introduction to the central limit theorem – an important concept in probability theory that can reveal normal distributions (i.e. bell curves) across data that does not appear to fit a normal distribution curve. » 10/07/13 2:40pm 10/07/13 2:40pm

Why Randomness May Not Mean What You Think It Means

Are you convinced that the shuffle mode on your iPod is messing with your mind? Or that certain numbers are bound to come up in the next lottery? If yes, you may be holding on to some serious misconceptions about randomness. Here’s what it means for something to truly happen by chance. » 7/03/13 10:00am 7/03/13 10:00am

How to Dominate at Monopoly Using Basic Math

Take a very good look at the arrows on this this Monopoly board. It shows all the various ways you can end up in jail. That tidbit alone should fundamentally alter the way you look at this classic game. Here's why — and more. » 6/21/13 2:40pm 6/21/13 2:40pm

How stereotypes really do cloud your mind

We think that getting more information about a situation helps us make more accurate predictions. There are times, though, when some well-chosen information can wreck our rationality. All we need is a good stereotype. » 6/10/13 6:20am 6/10/13 6:20am

There's a 50-50 chance of another 9/11-sized attack within a decade

As we approach the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, we can be grateful that nothing like it has happened since. But that doesn't mean that something very much like 9/11 — or even worse — couldn't happen again. In fact, new research suggests that we may be seriously underestimating the risk of another… » 9/05/12 12:00pm 9/05/12 12:00pm

Parrondo's Paradox: Winning Two Games You're Guaranteed to Lose

JM Parrondo is a casino and con artist's worst nightmare. In the 1990s, he invented two games that are sure to lose you everything. They're both mathematically designed to make you go broke, but play them one after another and you are guaranteed to win. » 11/21/11 7:05am 11/21/11 7:05am

How unfathomable were your odds of coming into being?

Remember in Watchmen, when Doctor Manhattan waxes all sentimental about the miracle of human existence? If you do, you'll recall that he's not talking about the human race — he's talking about the "unfathomable odds" of any specific, individual person coming into being. » 11/09/11 4:19pm 11/09/11 4:19pm

Physicists and mathematicians discover a way to save time - literally

In order to calculate odds in a multiverse, a certain conceit has to be thrown down which 'ends time' for certain universes. This means that, conceptually at least, universes are destroyed. And so a group of intrepid theorists set out to save universes by saving time, and may have discovered a way to do it. » 8/12/11 7:00am 8/12/11 7:00am

Coin tosses don't really give you fifty-fifty odds

The coin toss, the great equalizer of all odds, is not as random as it seems. When flipped by a human being, the odds are slightly stacked towards one side. » 8/01/11 8:30am 8/01/11 8:30am

How to use dice to stop people from lying on surveys

Whenever we turn on the news, we're treated to statistics about things there seem to be no way of verifying. How many people has the average person slept with? How many crimes has the average person committed? The numbers quoted are often the result of surveys. In a survey, there's nothing to keep people honest,… » 7/30/11 12:00pm 7/30/11 12:00pm