Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

February 4, 2012

A 3.8-Sigma Anomaly

Filed under: Entertainment,science,Top Posts — Sean Carroll @ 9:33 am

Every professional football game begins with the flip of a coin, to determine who gets the ball first. In the case of the Super Bowl, the teams represent the National Football Conference (NFC) or American Football Conference (AFC). Interestingly, the last 14 coin flips have been won by the NFC.

Working out the numbers, the chances of 14 coin flips in a row being equal is 1 in 8,192. (The linked article says 1 in 16,000, which comes from 2^14; but that first coin flip has to be something, so the chances of 14 in a row are really 1 in 2^13. The anomaly would be just as strange if the AFC had won every time.) That’s a better than 3.8-sigma effect! Enough to call a press conference, if this were particle physics.

The question is … is this really a signal, or did we just get lucky? Is it a fair coin and the NFC has just been the happy recipient of a statistical fluctuation, or is there something fishy about the coin? Remember Barry Greenstein’s parable about how different people compute probabilities.

And let it be a lesson the next time you’re excited about 3-sigma anomalies.


January 30, 2012

Mind = Blown

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — Sean Carroll @ 8:37 am

Apologies that real work (to the extent that what I do can be called “work”) has gotten in the way of substantive blogging. But I cannot resist sharing the amazing things I learned this weekend — amazing to me, anyway, although it’s possible I’m the only one here who wasn’t clued in.

Thing the first is that Morgan Freeman, many years before he went through the wormhole, was a regular on The Electric Company, along with performers like Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby. (Via Quantum Diaries, of all places.) This was public television’s show from the 70′s that was meant for kids who had moved on from Sesame Street — I was more of a Zoom kid myself, but I must have seen Electric Company episodes with Freeman playing hip dude Easy Reader.

Thing the second is that Easy Reader’s theme song, sung in the clip above, is a dead ringer for Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Flip back and forth between playing them if you don’t believe me. So much so, I am told, that DJ’s in clubs will sometimes mix the two tunes together. Not at the clubs I go to, I guess.


January 13, 2012

Good News/Bad News: Nobel Edition

Filed under: Entertainment — Sean Carroll @ 8:59 am

The good news about winning the Nobel Prize: you get better parking on campus.

The bad news: Sheldon Cooper makes fun of you on national TV.

Of course you don’t need to watch the ceremonies to learn what all the scientists are wearing this year. I am reliably informed that a regular tuxedo is not good enough; you need to go full white tie and tails. (Interestingly, the Peace Prize is more casual; black tie or “national costume” is perfectly acceptable.)


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