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 ›
After withdrawing from matches in protest, on September 26, world champion Magnus Carlsen accused Hans Moke Niemann, a grandmaster at 19, of cheating. He described cheating in chess as “a big deal” and “an existential threat to the game.” How is it possible to cheat in elite chess and how is cheating detected? Well, in many matches, the moves are made online. Chess.com is a website that detects cheating by comparing players’ moves with those of powerful machines. As Ella Feldman explains at Smithsonian Magazine, the Wall Street Journal got hold of a 72-page report from Chess-com on the problem: Did a player make a critical move that aligns with what a chess engine might suggest? And if the answer Read More ›
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 ›
Gary Smith, author of The AI Delusion, has some interesting advice for those who think that a star athlete wins only on performance: It doesn’t quite work that way: A study by two business school professors, Cade Massey and Richard Thaler, found that the chances that a drafted player will turn out to be better than the next player drafted in his position (for example, the first quarterback drafted compared to the second quarterback drafted) is only 52%, barely better than a coin flip.Yet, teams pay much more for early draft picks than for later picks. Even leaving salary aside, teams that trade down (for example giving up the first pick in the draft for the 14th and 15th pick) Read More ›
With basketball fever at a high pitch… when LA Times sportswriter Jim Alexander talked to Pomona College business prof Gary Smith about what it takes to win, he got a different answer than some might have expected. If you are really good, it takes luck to win, Smith explained. What? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? No, because… “You can take the four best golfers in the world – any sport, but let’s do golf because it’s head-to-head,” Smith said in a phone conversation this week. “And they play a round of golf and see who gets the lowest score, and it’s pretty much random. Nobody’s going to win every single time. One guy might win more than 25 Read More ›
Our rapidly developing ability to interface neurons and electronics offers amputees much more functional prostheses (though it is still a long and winding road). Here are some encouraging recent developments: ● A newer technology pioneered at Helsinki University Hospital and Imperial College London enables improved compatibility between a prosthesis and the remaining portion of the amputee’s limb. One current problem is that the connections between the prosthesis and the muscle that gives the commands (the myoelectric interface) can grow weaker due to external factors like sweating. Currently existing systems require adjustments or other measures from the user, but Yeung and his team developed a fully automated system that learns during normal use and thus adapts to varying conditions. “In this Read More ›
Despite admonitions to not “politicalize the games,” Beijing’s opening ceremonies for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games conveyed a political message to the world. Politics has always been part of the Olympic Games. The impetus behind the modern Olympic Games, as conceived by William Penny Brookes and Pierre baron de Coubertin, was to use sports for promoting peace among nations, an inherently political agenda. Decisions on whether dignitaries will attend or who lights the torch are intentional on the part of the visiting and hosting countries, particularly since the first televised Games in 1960. Therefore, when the Chinese Olympic Committee chose first-time Olympic athlete Dinigeer Yilamujiang, also spelled Dilnigar Ilhamjan,* a twenty-year-old cross-country skier of Uyghur heritage, the country was Read More ›
In a previous article, I looked at the security issues with the MY2022 app, the official app for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, and the app that everyone who attends must download. The app has two key vulnerabilities that leave user data exposed when sending information over WiFi.* Aside from these vulnerabilities, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab found a list of censored keywords in the app’s code, as well as the capability to report someone who has sent politically contentious content over the messaging service. The keyword feature does not seem to be active, but as Jeffrey Knockel, author of the Citizen Lab report, told the New York Times, they could censor content with “the flip of a switch.” This is one Read More ›
This February should be a time of celebration in China. The opening ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is the day after the beginning of Lunar New Year. The Olympic Games commence two days later on February 4th. However, the Chinese government has put a damper on celebrations by continuing to pursue its “zero-Covid” strategy even though every other country has eased restrictions and begun transitioning from a “pandemic” to “endemic” mentality. People in Beijing along with surrounding regions have become exasperated over the daily testing protocols and harsh measures that are in place to ensure the Chinese Communist Party can save face over its prior claims of having defeated the virus. Among many of the issues plaguing the Read More ›
On December 19, Peng Shuai was stopped by a journalist with Singaporean Chinese-language state-owned newspaper Lianhe Zaobao while she was in Shanghai for the International Ski Federation’s Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour. The Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Chen Qingqing, of the Chinese state media mouthpiece Global Times, posted a short video on Twitter of Peng with former NBA and CBA basketball player and current chairman of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming hours before the Lianhe Zaobao interview was posted. In the interview Peng said that she never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting her. The Wall Street Journal reports: “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Ms. Peng said in an interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.” “There shouldn’t be any distorted interpretations,” she Read More ›
In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas about what’s happening — and isn’t happening — in artificial intelligence today. The big story turned out to be all the free software you can use to advance your own projects. This time out, Dr. Bui focuses on what open source (free) Kaggle software can do for you, including competitons. Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 12:58 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Justin Bui: Kaggle is owned by Google; I Read More ›
In the National Basketball Association All-Star exhibition game that was played yesterday, Team LeBron defeated Team Durant by a score of 170-150. The captains (LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both pictured) had taken turns choosing players for their teams. LeBron got the first pick (Giannis Antetokounmpo), Durant the second (Steph Curry), LeBron the third (Luka Doncic), and so on. The talent is so uniform among the top two dozen NBA players that there is no real advantage to choosing first or second: any given player is arguably as good or better than the player chosen before him. In addition, the game is just an exhibition intended to entertain the fans with spectacular offensive plays, while the defense mainly tries to Read More ›
Is “Hot Hands” really a fallacy, as some claim? Steph Curry is arguably the greatest shooter in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. In 2020, during practice the day after Christmas, Curry demolished that record by making 105 consecutive 3-point shots. Read More ›
The paper that busted the myth of “hot hands” is justly famous. But statisticians are not prophets. Craig Hodges’ streak of 19 in a row in the 1991 contest is still too incredible to be explained by luck or cherry-picking. The numbers show that hot hands don’t happen every day, but they do happen.
Think about it. Line drives hit right at fielders, mis-hit balls dying in the infield. Fly balls barely caught and barely missed. Balls called strikes and strikes called balls. Even the best batters make twice as many outs as hits. Even the best teams lose more than a third of their games. This season, the Houston Astros had the highest win percentage (66.0%) in baseball, yet they lost two out of six games to Baltimore, which only won a third of their games—not because Baltimore was the better team, but because Baltimore was the luckier team in those two games. The Astros are one of the 10 best teams this season (along with the Yankees, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Cleveland, Oakland, Read More ›
In any competition including academic tests, athletic events, and company management where there is an element of luck that causes performances to be an imperfect measure of ability, there is an important difference between competitions among people with high ability and competitions among people of lesser ability.