Monday, May 30, 2011

Probability

My recent post on Lance Armstrong received a high number of pageviews in one week (it's already my second all time most read post behind Income and Life Expectancy. What does it Tell Us About US) but a low number of comments and a relatively short average visit time.  That suggests to me that while readers might be interested in the topic of whether he doped or not, they have a hard time understanding the mathematical calculations that I did.  

Probability theory is a tricky concept.  It is what gives students of statistics the hardest time, myself included.  It had it's beginnings with games of chance.  This is why casinos do such big business because most people are such poor judges of their real chance of winning.  The real ones who got rich off of the California gold rush were the ones who sold the shovels.

Taking the performance enhancing drugs and taking the drug test is a form of gambling where the athlete's career is being put on the line.  One commenter on Twitter thought I proved nothing, another on Facebook thought I should've used a more sophisticated analysis like Bayes theorem and one still thought I should have considered time from injection to the testing.  The rest said nothing so they leave me to make a probabilistic guess about what they're thinking.  

K. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle states that you can be absolutely certain of a particle's position or it's velocity but never both at the same time.  Merely the act of observing a phenomenon introduces into it uncertainty.  The only way we can know the world is through probability.  Our prior judgments do cloud our decisions and it is important to be aware of them when considering new information.

**Related Posts**

Cause & Effect, Slip Slidin' Away 

The Joy of Stats - Gapminder.org

Making Sense of the Pat Toomey-Joe Sestak Senate Race