Can odds be awkward? I’d put money on that...

Assiduous readers of will know that we often refer to odds. Pretty well everyone will have heard of odds, and will at least know that they have something to do with how likely something is to happen. But beyond that, it can get trickier, as an entry in a blog about language has reminded us.

A contender for 'The worst info graphic of 2011' award

iconWe may already have a winner for the 'Worst info graphic of 2011 award' with this panel which appeared in the Times yesterday (Jan 4th).

Stalin had a point

Got a Thunderer column in The Times today - giving local link rather than Times website due to their paywall. Links are provided to to the interesting post-mortems on the 2009 pandemic statistics.

Pure Randomness in Art

Random glassThis article is based on a talk I gave at the recent John Cage exhibition in Kettles Yard gallery in Cambridge. Cage is perhaps best known for his avant-garde music, particularly his silent 1952 composition 4′33″ but also for his use of randomness in “aleatory music”.

Nice probability puzzle

For the last few weeks, Chris Maslanka's excellent maths puzzle column in the Guardian has been running variants on the following problem. Fred and Sam play a game in which the winner is the first to flip a head. They take it in turns, Fred starting. What's the chance that Fred wins? I have been asking this to 6th form audiences and the general response is 2/3 or 3/4, but nobody can say why. Here is the solution I have been using.

Mobile phones and behavioural problems

This article found an association between mobile phone use in pregnancy and behavioural problems in childhood, with an additional association with the child using a mobile phone before they were 7. I was not the only one reported as being sceptical, but the study is predictably getting a lot of coverage particularly in pregnancy advisory websites.

Do attractive people tend to have more daughters?

I got a commentary in the Times today (due to the Times paywall, this is a local link to the unedited article, rather than to the published version) about a study that estimated that people rated as 'unattractive' when they were 7 years old only had 44% chance of their first child being a girl. This effect seems utterly implausible.

Chance is a very fine thing

This month's Nrich has a fine collection of exercises on uncertainty, chance and coincidences, designed to be useful for primary schools to sixth forms. Have a look at the great lottery simulator, and try your hand at spinning 10 heads in a row like Derren Brown (there's a simulator if you get bored).

Lightning simulator

iconThis is really a quincunx made to look like lightning for a bit of fun. The lightning has to make 20 left or right choices on its way to the ground. If the stick man stays put he has a 1 in $2^{20}$ chance of being struck on each flash. That's roughly one micromort. As the strikes hit the ground the number of hits in each place appears as a bar chart.

The money's in the bag

Got an article in the Times about the Walkers Crisps forecasting competition. Since then have won another £10. Shame the paywall means there is no point in linking to the online version.


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