Archive for August 13th, 2009

The Vast Wasteland, Even Bigger

My TV died last night, right in the middle of The Daily Show (the 8:00 repeat). One minute Jon Stewart was there, the next, he wasn’t. I’m not lamenting the loss of the TV all that much — it was a mediocre set I got 5 years ago (I had to check my receipts; it seemed more recent, but it was June of ’04) when my last set died.

The one thing I have demanded in each TV is that it be bigger than the previous one. The 26″ set I got after I graduated college gave way to a 29″ set purchased in Canada during my years of hiding, to this recently-deceased 32″ set, a cheap transitional CRT TV I got because I could not afford an HD set; plasmas were too expensive and über-large LCDs were in their infancy. Now, I am ready to take the 40″ HD plunge. Right in time for football season.

Quick! Boil Some Water!

Boiling water in 1g and micro-g environments

Mistakes? What Were the Odds of That?

What’s luck got to do with it? The maths of gambling

He wasn’t on a lucky streak, he was using his knowledge of mathematics to understand, and beat, the odds.

“Beat the odds” isn’t quite as bad as “defies the laws of physics,” I think. But exploiting knowledge of the odds to win isn’t beating the odds. Beating the odds is winning when you shouldn’t — drawing to an inside straight and hitting it to win a hand is beating the odds. Exploiting the situation to make the odds go in your favor — making it so you should win more than you lose — is not.

A spin of the roulette wheel is just like the toss of a coin. Each spin is independent, with a 50:50 chance of the ball landing on black or red.

Well, no. A roulette wheel has 37 or 38 slots, depending on where you play, with 36 of them being black or red. The others are green — 0 and 00 (Europe has one, the US has both. Sort of.) That’s why the house makes profit offering “even money” on black or red bets on a US wheel; the probability of winning is slightly less than 50%. (They also make money on the single-number payouts, at 35:1) All of the bets on a 00 roulette wheel have a house advantage of at least 5.26%; single-0 wheels have a smaller house advantage but there also seems to be a correlation with higher-stakes limits. The previous link also presents a section on debunking the “doubling down” method for roulette. Winning at roulette is truly “beating the odds” since the house always has an advantage.

For what it is worth, the sum of all the numbers in roulette is 666.

Bang Bang!

(Link 5 is premature at the time of this posting, but based on the syntax of the earlier posts. It should go “active” later today)

Update: Gah, Matt zigged. Link fixed.