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Cancer Maps—An Expensive Source of Phantom Patterns?

Is the money the U.S. government spends on tracking cancer patterns a good investment? There’s a way we can tell

The U.S. government puts interactive maps on the internet that show the geographic incidence (all the way down to census blocks) of various types of cancer. Millions of dollars are spent each year maintaining these maps, but for what purpose? The problem with cancer maps is that they tempt the curious and fearful to scrutinize the brightly colored chunks, thinking that any patterns they discover must be meaningful. However, statistical patterns are sometimes meaningless. For example, I flipped a coin ten times and got these results: There is a cluster of 3 heads in a row and a cluster of 4 tails in a row: These clusters are not at all surprising. If a fair coin is flipped ten times,…

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Enrique Blair on the Future of Quantum Computing

Google has claimed quantum supremacy. What does that mean? What is the future of quantum computing? Robert J. Marks discusses quantum communication, supremacy, and computing with Dr. Enrique Blair. Show Notes 00:49 | Introducing Dr. Enrique Blair, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor University 01:14 | Problems with quantum computing 01:54 | What is quantum supremacy? 03:06…

Photo by Amanda Jones

Bridge: Why Shuffle the Deck Seven Times?

For years, competitive bridge players complained that computer shuffling of cards produced goofy results. Statisticians sided with the computers

Bridge is one of the few games where computer algorithms have not yet demolished the best human players but, despite claims to the contrary, algorithms do a much better job of random shuffling of the deck.

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Colorful toothpicks or pick-up sticks

How Can We Measure Meaningful Information?

Neither randomness nor order alone creates meaning. So how can we identify communications?
Dropping a handful of toothpicks on the table seems to produce a different sort of pattern than spelling out a word with toothpicks. Surprisingly, this intuitive distinction is harder to make in math and the sciences. Algorithmic specified complexity (ASC) enables us to distinguish them. Read More ›