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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quick, British, Illustrated

Posted by on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

It's sorta like a graphic novel (er, graphic short story?) and sorta like a pop-up book—I'm sure there's a name for this kind of thing already. Whatever you call it, it's soothing to take a break from the supercharged U.S. media and look at the past few months from the Guardian's perspective. Even if only for a few seconds. Then it's back to the grind.

Speaking of which, here's a heartening poker comparison from Nate Silver:

All of this leaves Mr. Romney drawing to an inside straight. I hope you’ll excuse the cliché, but it’s appropriate here: in poker, making an inside straight requires you to catch one of 4 cards out of 48 remaining in the deck, the chances of which are about 8 percent. Those are now about Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast.

As any poker player knows, those 8 percent chances do come up once in a while. If it happens this year, then a lot of polling firms will have to re-examine their assumptions — and we will have to re-examine ours about how trustworthy the polls are. But the odds are that Mr. Obama will win another term.


Comments (7) RSS

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How does it follow that the long-odds outcome occurring would mean people have to reevaluate anything?

The chance of flipping heads 10 times in a row is 1 in 1024 - 2^10. But if I went and did it right now, that wouldn't mean we have to reevaluate everything we know about probability.

So why is this different?
Posted by Alden on November 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 2
Because the probability is so low that they'd have to re-evaluate whether they were using the correct statistical models or not, or whether the independent and dependent variables were the most appropriate.

It's not exactly like playing poker or flipping a coin, it's more like predicting that the New York Yankees would beat a little league team 92 out of 100 times in baseball. If the little league team won too many games (or really, ANY games), people wouldn't say "well, that's just the probability living itself out," they'd say, "something is wrong with the Yankees."
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 6, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Yep. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are still dead.

As is Bin Laden.
Posted by originalcinner on November 6, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 4
@1: If you flipped ten heads in a row, I wouldn't re-evaluate everything I knew about probability. But I might want to take a very close look at the coin you were flipping.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on November 6, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
rob! 5
Maybe I'm easily amused, but I did like that web page—it felt like there were gears and levers behind it.

They got the ink color wrong for Santorum, though.
Posted by rob! on November 6, 2012 at 10:59 AM · Report this
Thanks for posting this, Brendan. I think I'll use it with my English language learners this afternoon!
Posted by greendyke on November 6, 2012 at 11:34 AM · Report this
This is why I can't stand Numb3rs. They make 89% predictions, and every time they are wrong, it's something wrong with the math. MATH DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!!!!

If you flip a coin 10 times and it is always heads, you should check the coin, but sometimes it happens with a fair coin. It is fair to check your assumptions when something with a low prior probability happens, but sometimes you will have been right. Sometimes they'll draw to that straight. Sometimes they'll win 10 flips in a row.
It happens.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on November 6, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Report this

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