Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryProbability

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Baseball on home plate on baseball field

A Modest Proposal for the MLB

Major League Baseball got greedy and needs to reform.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) season is finally over. Whew! In the World Series, the Texas Rangers (which tied with Houston and Philadelphia for the 6th best regular-season record) defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks (which had the 13th best regular-season record). What exactly was the point? Many of the games were entertaining but no one would seriously argue that these were the two best MLB teams. There was a time when the World Series pitted the American League team with the best regular-season record against the National League team with the best regular-season record. Then, the MLB got greedy and crafted an elaborate playoff system designed to increase revenue. First came two rounds, then three rounds, now four rounds. Currently, 12 Read More ›

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Baseball

The MLB Coin-Flipping Contest

What are the chances that wild-card teams will make it to the World Series and win?

“Let me tell you sonny, how it used to be in the good old days.” Is there anything worse than what Bruce Springsteen called “boring stories of glory days”? He goes on, “I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it but I probably will.” Well, this year’s World Series brought back memories of the glory days when there were two Major League Baseball leagues — the American League and the National League — and the regular season winners of each league met in the World Series. Now, each league has three divisions (East, Central, and West) and a complicated sequence of playoff games that involves the three division winners and three wild card teams in Read More ›

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starry night sky. only sky, mountains and stars.

Does the Evidence for Our Universe’s Fine-Tuning Mean Anything?

Why is a divine Mind not “scientific” if the evidence points in that direction?

Fermilab senior scientist Don Lincoln offers some thoughts at Big Think on why the universe appears fine-tuned for life. He begins by offering evidence: Suppose that the mass of the electron is twice as big as it is now. If that were true, the main fusion process in most stars wouldn’t work. Because stars are the kilns in which heavy elements are formed, some of the familiar elements of the periodic table wouldn’t exist at all. -Don Lincoln, “Why does the Universe appear fine-tuned for life to exist?” Big Think, October 7, 2023, Well then, we couldn’t exist. Similar examples abound, of course. But when we get to “why?” these things are so, Lincoln can’t seem to choose. He dismisses Read More ›

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the head of a person is full of different numbers Generative AI

Did “Evolution” Wire Human Brains to “Act Like Supercomputers”?

In making such a claim, psychology researchers may have got more than they bargained for

Intelligent design theory is still a third rail in science. But a media release for a recent research publication seems to subtly adopt its language. Researchers associated with the University of Sydney found that human brains are “naturally wired to perform advanced calculations, much like a high-powered computer, to make sense of the world through a process known as Bayesian inference.” Bayesian inference is based on Bayes’ Theorem; essentially, it’s a decision-making tool, “a means for revising predictions in light of relevant evidence, also known as conditional probability or inverse probability.” (Britannica). Originally developed by Presbyterian minister and mathematician Thomas Bayes (1702–1761) and found among his papers after his death, Bayesian inference is used today to assess probabilities using advanced Read More ›

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Scoring the winning points at a basketball game

Sabrina Ionescu’s Hot Hand

When basketball players hit a "streak," does that elevate the probability of success?

Most people believe that athletes sometimes get “hot” or “cold” with their performance elevated or depressed temporarily. For example, Purvis Short, who scored 59 points in an NBA game, said, “You’re in a world all your own. It’s hard to describe. But the basket seems to be so wide. No matter what you do, you know the ball is going to go in.” Similarly, during a timeout in a 2015 game, LeBron James told his teammates to pass the ball to Kevin Love, explaining after the game that, “He had the hot hand, I wanted to keep going to him.” On the other hand, statisticians tell us that streaks are likely even in random coin flips that have a rock-steady Read More ›

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Baseball

This Time, Houston Was Blessed More by Luck Than by Stolen Signs

The victory parade over, let’s look at whether luck had more to do with the Astros’ success than Astro fans want to admit

The Houston Astros are the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) World Champion — this time, as far as we know, without relying on electronically stolen pitching signs sent to batters by banging trashcan lids or using buzzers hidden under uniforms. Now that the champagne has popped and the victory parade has been held, let’s consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, luck had more to do with the Astros’ success than Astro fans want to admit. Athletes and fans want to believe that the team that wins the World Series, Super Bowl, or any other championship is the best team that year. The reality is that in every sport — some more than others — outcomes are influenced by good Read More ›

Groups of people
Groups of people are connected by lines. Interdependence correlation in workflow. Interacting and joining forces with other teams. Interact to complete tasks. Formation of a more complex community.

Step Away From Stepwise Regression (and Other Data Mining)

Stepwise regression, which is making a comeback, is just another form of HARKing — Hypothesizing After the Results are Known

There is a strong correlation between the number of lawyers in Nevada and the number of people who died after tripping over their own two feet. There are similarly impressive correlations between U.S. crude oil imports and the per capita consumption of chicken — and the number of letters in the winning word in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the number if people killed by venomous spiders. If you find these amusing (as I do), there are many more at the website Spurious Correlations. These silly statistical relationships are intended to demonstrate that correlation is not causation. But no matter how often or how loudly statisticians shout that warning, many people do not hear it. When there is a Read More ›

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Chinese fortune cookies. Cookies with empty blank inside for prediction words. Blue background.

We Love Baseball Because of — Not Despite — Lady Luck

With a big game approaching, emotions run high so let’s heed some statistical realities

As we approach the MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles on July 19, we can be confident of one thing — most current league leaders will not do as well after the break as they did before it. Baseball broadcaster and National Sportswriter of the Year Peter Gammons was among the first to notice this. He wrote in 1989 that, of those baseball players who hit more than 20 home runs before the All-Star break, 90 percent pegged fewer than 20 after the break. Gammons concluded that there was a “second-half power outage,” perhaps because the sluggers got nervous about the possibility of breaking a home run record. More recently, sports forecaster Max Kaplan made a similar observation, which he Read More ›

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Several cards

The Holy Rollers: Christians Who Gamble for God

Not only have many successful players been Christians, probability theory was developed in part by a philosopher who became a devout Christian

This last instalment of the writeup of the podcasts with mathematician, computer scientist, engineer — and part-time gambler — Salvador Cordova looks at why and how Christians like himself gamble without cheating. Cordova was one of the crowdfunders of a film on the topic called Holy Rollers (2011). The host is fellow engineer and Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks in “Card Counting Strategies and Dangers” (podcast, June 23, 2022): https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-192-Sal-Cordova-Episode-4-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 15:47 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: First of all, tell us what the movie was about, and then your involvement. Sal Cordova: It’s about one of the most successful card counting teams, blackjack teams. Read More ›

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policewoman holding arrested young woman while her partner talking on portable radio

Can AI Really Predict Crime a Week in Advance? That’s the Claim.

University of Chicago data scientists claim 90% accuracy for their algorithm using past data — but it’s hard to evaluate

The University of Chicago recently announced to great fanfare that, Data and social scientists from the University of Chicago have developed a new algorithm that forecasts crime by learning patterns in time and geographic locations from public data on violent and property crimes. The model can predict future crimes one week in advance with about 90% accuracy. University of Chicago Medical Center, “Algorithm Predicts Crime a Week in Advance, but Reveals Bias in Police Response” at Newswise (June 28, 2022) Many thought immediately of the 2002 movie Minority Report, in which three psychics (“precogs”) visualize murders before they occur, thereby allowing special PreCrime police to arrest would-be assailants before they can commit them. Have these University of Chicago researchers made Read More ›

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A group of people playing gambling in a casino

Gambling: When advantage players team up, dealer beware!

On the other hand, the movie industry has made a good thing from films of the legendary exploits

Gambling has got to be a slam dunk exciting premise for films. Once again, mathematician, computer scientist, engineer — and part-time gambler — Salvador Cordova joins fellow engineer and Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks to talk about gambling and probability — how hard math types (advantage players) like himself have beaten the odds without cheating. And, this time, they discuss how their skills while working together can wind up as a movie. From Robert J. Marks in Card Counting Strategies and Dangers (podcast): https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-192-Sal-Cordova-Episode-4-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 00:23 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Have you ever taken advantage of your skills embedding with other people? … Sal Read More ›

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Probability: Now for the Basic Arithmetic of Card Counting…

The advantage player who dresses like a bum (or worse) has it all worked out, in part with the help of a computer at home

In “Can a good hustler count cards like a computer?” (podcast), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continues his discussion of card counting techniques with gambling ace Salvador Cordova, also a mathematician and engineer. An “advantage player,” Cordova made his living, in part, by beating the casinos from about 2005 through 2014. Note: This podcast involves a fair amount of discussion of specific numbers so the partial transcript below may be especially useful: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/Mind-Matters-Episode-191-Sal-Cordova-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at approximately 12:00 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: That’s the card counting system you use, Omega II? Sal Cordova: Right. If you see an ace or an eight, you just add zero Read More ›

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Croupier hands dealing cards on t blackjack poker table, gambling table with cards and chips

Can You Really Be a Card Counter Without Resorting to Magic?

Math nerd (and successful gambler) Salvador Cordova explains how card counters improve their odds in blackjack

Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back withSalvador Cordova, mathematician, engineer — and gambling ace. In previous episodes, they discussed why most players lose and how “advantage players” — those who understand the game, the players, the management, and the mathematical probabilities — sometimes clean out casinos. Of course, they also sometimes get kicked out, as has happened to Cordova, and new rules and precautions ensue. And, doubtless, new ways are found around them. In this new podcast episode, “Can a good hustler count cards like a computer?”, Cordova says a bit more about how the pros improve their odds from pure chance by card counting. He made his living, inpart, that way from about 2005 through 2014. Read More ›

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Croupier behind gambling table in a casino

Can Casinos Ban Customers Who Might Get TOO “Lucky”?

Sal Cordova was good enough at card counting that his photo was circulated and casino nabbed his driver’s licence…

In a recent podcast, “When the house can’t win the game, it will change the rules” (June 9, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with mathematician, computer scientist, and engineer Salvador Cordova on the mathematics of gambling — who wins, who loses, and why. Last week, we looked at the struggle between the casino and the “advantage player” who knows very well how the system works and spots its weaknesses. But now, what about banning a suspiciously “lucky” would-be customer outright? Here’s what happened to Sal Cordova: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-190-Sal-Cordova-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at roughly 11:10 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Sal Cordova: One of the better things is that Read More ›

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Handsome man playing in casino

The Struggle Between Casinos and Advantage Players

The scene is enlivened by assorted other characters who use romance to help in the struggle for a big win. Sal Cordova explains

In a recent podcast, “When the house can’t win the game, it will change the rules” (June 9, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with mathematician, computer scientist, and engineer Salvador Cordova on the mathematics of gambling — why the odds are stacked against the gambler — or, depending on a gambler’s skill and knowledge of the circumstances, maybe they aren’t… https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-190-Sal-Cordova-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at approximately 00:31 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow below. Marks and Cordova ended Episode 1 by discussing the famous advantage player Don Johnson who cleaned out Atlantic City for tens of millions of dollars in 2011. What was his secret? Sal Cordova: He Read More ›

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Change Chance

The Salem Hypothesis: Why Engineers View the Universe as Designed

Not because we're terrorists or black-and-white thinkers, as claimed. A simple computer program shows the limits of creating information by chance

In the fun-filled world of internet debate between creationists and evolutionists, we encounter the Salem Hypothesis: Creationists tend to be engineers. Many explanations have been offered for this phenomenon (apparently named after Talk Origins contributor Bruce Salem): engineers are closet terrorists creationists are trying to protect their fragile beliefs a desire to exert authority engineers like simple black and white answers There’s a reason internet forums are not known for flattering character analysis! Anyhow, the true reason for the Salem Hypothesis is summed up in this graph. Read on to find out why. Engineers are more likely to be creationists because they are familiar with what it takes to design complex things for specific tasks. Which is exactly what we Read More ›