EppsNet Archive: Randomness

He Moves in Mysterious Ways

There’s a story on the TV news about a fire that burned down a local preschool, owned by the same family for 44 years. Fire investigators suspect arson. The owner is being interviewed. “The Lord will get us through,” she says. “I’m surprised the Lord let someone burn the place down to begin with,” I say to my wife. “You can’t look at it that way.” “I can’t?” “It’s just something that happened and the Lord will get them through it.” “I don’t see how the Lord can be given credit for anything that happens as long as it’s good, but when something bad happens, well, it’s just a random incident that he couldn’t do anything about. Where’s the accountability? Is the Lord making things happen in your life or isn’t he? Well, the preschool burned down, that was regrettable. The Lord must have looked away for a moment. But… Read more →

Illusions of Patterns and Patterns of Illusion

In 1978, [Leonard] Koppett revealed a system that he claimed could determine, by the end of January every year, whether the stock market would go up or down in that calendar year. [Koppett’s system] worked for eleven straight years, from 1979 through 1989, got it wrong in 1990, and was correct again every year until 1998. But although Koppett’s predictions were correct for a streak of eighteen out of nineteen years, I feel confident in asserting that his streak involved no skill whatsoever. Why? Because Leonard Koppett was a columnist for Sporting News, and his system was based on the results of the Super Bowl, the championship game of professional football. Whenever the team from the (original) National Football League won, the stock market, he predicted, would rise. Whenever the team from the (original) American Football League won, he predicted the market would go down. Given that information, few people would argue that Koppett was anything but… Read more →

Monkeys on Typewriters

If one puts an infinite number of monkeys in front of (strongly built) typewriters, and lets them clap away, there is a certainty that one of them would come out with an exact version of the Iliad. Upon examination, this may be less interesting a concept than it appears at first: Such probability is ridiculously low. But let us carry the reasoning one step beyond. Now that we have found that hero among monkeys, would any reader invest his life’s savings on a bet that the monkey would write the Odyssey next? — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness Read more →