Friday, 30 January 2015

Can we beat the Laws of Probability. . . . . The Big Question.

Here we are again at the very edge of yet another Big Question one that folk often asked in many a scientific research establishment or the great corridors of the worlds Universities or even the slightly dark and dodgy looking bookie just off the high street. You know the one with the nondescript window and fading sign. What they all want to know is . . . . Can we beat the Laws of Probability. . . . . Yes folk have been working on this since the beginning of time and the answer is complex to say the least.

The simple answer would be. . . Yes and No but not always . . .  But that is not the sort of answer you have come here to read about is it. . . .  But if it is well mmmmmm that’s it then you can go now and do exciting stuff. . . . . . .  .

Well we all know the principle, toss a coin into the air insuring it spins and the Laws of Probability will state that the likelihood it will land either heads up or tails up proportionally will be just under 50/50.  It is just under 50/50 because the Laws of Probability state there is a very small possibility it could land on its edge. Do this four times in a row and the probability of getting the sequence right is (4*4*2) + (4*2) +2 plus the unknown element of the coin landing on its edge, something that is unlikely but possible. (OK I have done this maths in my head so if I’m wrong YA SUCKS BOO)

Now turn this into a horse race where there are a huge number of significantly substantial variables which affect the result and it is possible to see why bookies are well off and gamblers are poor.  But of course the Law of probabilities can be applied to many highly important aspects of Science not the least of which involves two rain drops running down the window of a Nuclear Research Laboratory where the scientists have to calculate the angle of the wind and the pattern of the other drops of rain on the window. Remember each rain drop will collect more rain as it descends.   And therefore Science will tell us that the drop nearest the centre of the window will be the 5 to 1 odds on favourite to win the race. Allowing Professor Clarke to recover his losses from his impetuous bet in the snail race along the reactor floor, after his foolish bet on the larger British Garden Snail.  It is a common fact that its larger foot would make it susceptible to increased heat from the reactor. Had Professor Clarke applied the Laws of Probability to the snail race correctly he would have know this and not lost 87p betting on the nose.  The snail has since became a superhero due to unforeseen and highly improbable side effects worked out to be 119,5555,321 to 1 making the research establishments tea lady a very rich woman.  She never did understand the Laws of Probability, but likes to read Marvel comics.         

So can we beat the Laws of Probability, well the answer we can now see is clearly . . . . .

Yes and No but not always . . . . . . . . . . DAMN.


  1. Don't you just hate it when you flip a coin in the air and it lands on its side, and stays there? What are the odds of that happening? Or other times you'll toss a coin in the air and it just keeps going up up up up and .. Up? At least that is better than that time my uncle flip a coin in the air and it disappeared and it was discovered seconds later behind someones ear. I have learned to stop flipping coins. Right before I read this blog post I did create a symmetrical coin sculpture of stacking 26¢ of coins, 9 of them, at the bar in my kitchen while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.

    1. If I was a very clever man I might be able to work out what the nine coins were and then use the Laws of Probability to determine the most logical symmetrical sculpture. But I will not do this for two reasons. ONE. . . . A cup of hot chocolate sounds rather appealing, and TWO. I am about to eat a bacon sandwich. . . . . . . . .YUM.

      I had forgotten that coins can vanish into folks ears, it just goes to show that there is always something to change the probability of almost everything.

  2. I have problems remembering how to breathe in and out, so it stands to reason that the probability of me understanding any of this, would be significant enough for me to not understand it.

    1. Ah yes Miss Lily but next time it is raining and you and the Lil man are looking out of the window you will know to bet on the rain drop nearest the middle. And with luck you will probably win although there are many other factors to consider. . . . so dont make a bet you will regret, I suspect the Lil man will demand it is paid in full and charge interest.

  3. I don't like the term "Probability". It sounds to wishy-washy for a scientific principle.
    It may as well be termed "Dunnoreallyability" with a mild shrug added for effect.

    And Prof Clarke should know better than to bet anything more than 20p a go on a bet.

    87p is just silly money!

    I have noticed, however, that the winner of the Grand National is always backed at 16/1 or 8/1. There probably something in that but I have no idea what it may be.

    1. I like the name "Dunnoreallyability" although it does sound like it might be a small Irish village famous for sightings of leprechauns in the summer. And a visit from the Pope in 1835 where he made a local reclusive chap a saint after he revived the fortunes of the local church after he discovered the footprints of Mary (you know MARY, mother of Him) leading from the church into a small cave. where to this day a single candle is kept burning and folk pray a lot.

      Maybe I have over imagined that slightly . . . sorry about that folks

      I agree 87p is rash indeed. As for the Grand National it is a ratio of the number of horses to the size and number of jumps. As the jumps get lower, a result of fatalities in the past so it is more likely the favourite will win so that 16/1 or 8/1 will drop closer to say 12/1 or 6/1 . . . A small tip for this year.