Category Archives: The Dice

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 2


In Part One of this series, I suggested that you imagine what happens when a wonky die is rolled over and over again. Cancer probabilities are kind of wonky this way, with a low probability of happening, followed by an unpredictable course when it kicks in, possibly including death. The mathematical principle illustrated here is called the Central Limit Theorem…. Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 1


I have posted recently about the lotteries that you will likely lose and the lotteries you have already won. In this post I want to talk about the math of a lottery you might win, but really do not want to. And understanding the math here is to get to a closer understanding of probability and fate in nature. Every… Read more »

The probability of coincidence


I have a series of posts coming up about the probabilities attached to the “out of left field” events that hit your life like cancer, how to understand the statistics, and how we have attached various personal “theodices” (the “justice of God”) to these events. Some of that is a bit of downer, so I thought I would post a… Read more »

You are a lottery winner!


In an earlier post I described why you are probably not a big lottery winner, but there is one case in which you already are one. The mathematical odds in favor of YOU being here to read this were incredibly low. Yet Poisson’s Law of Large Numbers presented in that earlier post, paired with an understanding of birth rates and… Read more »

Why there is always a winner, but it’s probably not you


I’d like to move away from the topic of lotteries, but not yet, because this is the window through which most people normally experience a very counter-intuitive mathematical law concerning probability and randomness. Indeed, the worldwide lottery business is primarily based on the assumption that the operators know this law and you don’t. Setting up a truly-random and fair lottery… Read more »

Taraji P. Henson meets Gottfried Leibniz


The excellent 2016 film Hidden Figures starred Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, and was based on the women “computers” (that is what they were called) who worked behind the scenes to calculate trajectories for the first U. S. manned rocket flights. What you were seeing written on the chalkboards in that film was mostly the mathematics of differential and… Read more »

Albert Einstein and his dice – part 2


In Part One of this post, I described how Albert Einstein clashed with the younger generation of physicists over the role of probability in the events shaping this universe daily. Over the years he more than once invoked the name of God to say that “He does not play dice with the world.” The curious thing here is that Einstein… Read more »

Albert Einstein and his dice – part 1


So, about that Albert Einstein quote from which this blog gets its title – it is an interesting story about probability, determinism, fate and physics. You can find different versions, of varying provenance, where Einstein is quoted as saying something like, “God doesn’t play dice with the world.” [1] This quote is cited often by some religious writers to indicate that… Read more »

The math of lots and the Greek Fates


The drawing of lots, used to determine the outcome of the tied Virginia House of Delegates election noted in a previous post, has a long tradition in western culture, including the two dominant strains represented by the Judeo-Christian Bible and Greek mythology. Mathematically, the drawing of lots is a random number generator modeling a uniform probability distribution.  In this case, like… Read more »

Yes, Virginia, we still draw lots


The November 2017 Virginia House of Delegates election between Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican David Yancey famously ended in a tie after a disputed recount. The race was especially critical because the party in control of the legislature was dependent on this one election. [1] But what does the basic probability of random error tell us about the outcome of… Read more »