Category Archives: The Dice

Ant choices and “t+1”

  

Is there a “purpose” to the complex structure of ant colonies? Do ants make “choices” when they are constructing these colonies? When I begin to think about “human choice,” I first need to get “ant choice” straight in my head. So, here we go… The human mind has a hard time grasping how a colony of ants, each with extremely… Read more »

The casualties of culture

  

How “normal” are you in terms of interacting with the culture around you? A continuing theme of this blog is that we can view a lot of medical and social problems as various aggregations of “probabilistic randomness.” That is, many conditions in nature at least appear to occur randomly, but with predictable patterns to that randomness. And when you see a… Read more »

Me and my homunculus

  

Homunculus is one of those great words to have in your back pocket. You never know when it might come in handy, and it is a fun word to say. Traditionally, the homunculus was a small physical representation of a human used in the practice of alchemy during the 16th century to symbolize their attempts to re-create human life by… Read more »

Do bad things really happen in threes?

  

In an earlier post about Poisson processes, I teased the question, “Do ‘bad things’ really happen in threes, as the common folk wisdom goes?” The short answer is, “No.” Okay, there is some wiggle room of basis for this myth for certain familiar Poisson processes, where some random timing effects can cause our minds to perceive a natural grouping of… Read more »

The ever-changing river

  

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was noted for saying that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” He recognized that the fundamental nature of the universe is that it is ever-changing and ever-moving. You might think of him as the first to understand and articulate, long before the idea of “Poisson processes” as explained in an earlier… Read more »

Will you choose the cake or the fruit?

  

Call it “choice” or call it “free will,” we struggle daily when trying to figure out why people do bad things. Most of us go through our day thinking we are in control of our own choices, and we assume that others are as well. We can’t even entertain the thought that perhaps some other force if affecting how we… Read more »

The gun violence lottery

  

A recent New York Times story reported the frustration in trying to determine a “cause” for Stephen Paddock’s October 2017 murder of 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas, and the wounding of hundreds more, all shot using a modified semi-automatic weapon, fired high up from an adjacent hotel. [1] No strong personal motives have emerged, at least significant enough to commit… Read more »

Wait for it…wait for it…

  

If you were a horse soldier in the Prussian Army in the late 1800s, you were obviously not at any risk of dying in an automobile accident, but there was a persistent, yet low-risk, problem with soldiers dying from being kicked by their horses. Polish/Russian statistician Ladislaus Bortkiewicz famously found that these “random” deaths did indeed form a pattern, in this… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4

  

Said no one at any funeral ever: “I figured out the probability for why he died.” [1] Part Two and Part Three of this series of posts looked why the statistics for cancer, automobile accidents and other unfortunate life events are often so rigidly probabilistic in narrow ranges in aggregate. In other words, we can often predict “How many?” down… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 3

  

Part One of this series of posts introduced the idea that natural probabilities for life events like a cancer diagnosis or a traffic accident are counter-intuitively very predictable in the aggregate, although usually not individually. Part Two demonstrated how a low-probability and very skewed random event begins, after a lot of time and repetitions, to look very “normal” because of… Read more »