Re: Once every quadrillion years a statistician gets her deterministic experiment...


Well, it's not as if her knowledge of statistics could have been of much help, right? Or are you implying something about the randomness of the Texas lottery?

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:02 PM
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If you click thru links, it explains how she might have done it. As much detective work as stats

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:04 PM
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That lottery is so random it's not random.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:10 PM
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Where did I just read that whole discussion of scratch-off lottery tickets? Maybe it was linked here? Anyway here it is, in Wired.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:11 PM
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There was a lengthy story in Harper's not long ago about this, describing the possible means by which she might have accomplished this.

The article is paywalled, though, available only to subscribers, I see. Oops.

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:13 PM
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I read that too. Can't remember if it was here or not.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:14 PM
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There was also this recent story about gaming the lottery.

Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:16 PM
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This reminds me of a discussion I had with some friends in college when we took a trip to Reno (none of us were gambling age, but...*) and I argued that the sequences on the Keno balls were not truly random, so with enough analysis you might find that some picks are likely to be better than others, and we got to the point where one of my friends wanted to go down and inspect the actual machine (his position was that it was truly random), but instead we didn't even find five dollars.

*It's probably no surprise that I didn't gamble.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:18 PM
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I must admit the way the PA Lottery was gamed early in its existence (1980) was somewhat ingenious (although it was a true insider physical hack spearheaded by a Pittsburgh TV personality who was the announcer). It was ping-pong ball selection thingie and they weighted all but the "winning" numbers (4 and 6) and bet 6 and 4 patterns. As it was "666" came up. Unusual betting patterns (including at illegal bookies who used the official results) and a phone call in Greek to the announcer in the studio helped crack the case. A pretty wild story.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:23 PM
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I choose to believe that Force of Evil is an entirely accurate portrayal of history and that early state lotteries are the gone legitimate versions of numbers rackets. Even though Wired says that state lotteries didn't come about until about 15 years after the movie.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:27 PM
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That's the most compelling wikipedia narrative I've ever read. I love that it has no footnotes save one [citation needed].

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:34 PM
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11: Not mentioned, but I seem to recall that it took some independent statisticians a bit of time to convince the Lottery folks that there really had been unusual betting. Apparently 666 always gets heavy traffic and at first they only looked at its volume and it was not statistically significantly higher. Nor were any of the individual 444, 446 664 etc. numbers, but when you looked at them as a set it stood out. Also, the bookies figured it out; I think some even stopped taking bets before the drawing.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 8:48 PM
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11: My two favorite things are "local Pittsburgh lettering expert" and "(obtained from an art supply store)".

Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 9:43 PM
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If she's a statistician, it's likely that she won by discovering a weakness in the random nature of the lottery, rather than by cheating in some way. You don't really need to be a statistician to cheat. If so, she didn't beat the Lottery; she beat TEXAS.

It couldn't happen to a nicer state.

She won all this money over a period of a dozen years or more. Was she spending large amounts on lottery tickets the whole time? What was her investment to win that $20 million?

Posted by: Bob Munck | Link to this comment | 08-26-11 10:31 PM
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What are the odds that such a lucky person is also a statistician! She of all people knows enough to appreciate her luck.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 12:49 AM
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God loves statisticians because they are naturally lucky.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 2:57 AM
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If she's a statistician, it's likely that she won by discovering a weakness in the random nature of the lottery, rather than by cheating in some way. You don't really need to be a statistician to cheat.

God loves people who click through to read the story.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 5:29 AM
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"Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin."

Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 6:01 AM
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This certainly puts a new spin on the old saw that "lotteries are taxes on those who are bad at math".

Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 6:35 AM
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Was she spending large amounts on lottery tickets the whole time?

Yes. Apparently she'd buy entire shipments of $50 scratch cards when they came in.

If you can't access Harper's, the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast had a section on this story a week or two ago.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 9:15 AM
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Scribd link.

Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 11:33 AM
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The article in 21 is fascinating. It isn't clear how she is doing it but it isn't the same way as in the wired article since there is not visible computer generated data on the scratch offs. She probably has some way of determining when a batch with a big winner goes to a location and she buys all the scratch offs at that location with help from the owner. Either this is an inside job some help at the ticket shipper or she has cracked how the pseudorandom allocation of the tickets work. She also doesn't come across as a super genius code cracker. The phd is in math education (she has written a pre algebra textbook).

Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 12:56 PM
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Topic of possible interest to the unfogged crowd.

After the CT thread collecting recommendations for blogs with good comment sections I started casually following Charlie Stross' blog*.

He put up a post on Thursday asking for book recommendations. I read the first 80 comments or so and was surprised to find the thread almost completely uninteresting. I definitely find the various unfogged book threads to be far more likely to suggest something tempting.

I didn't take that as particularly significant -- each to their own after all, and it's not surprising to wonder over to another blog and feel like it isn't quite as good a match for my taste as unfogged typically is. However I was very interested to see that, in his next post Charlie Stross more or less directly called out his commenters. The resulting thread looks like it will be significantly more interesting than the original list of recommendations.

* I think it's helped for me, following the blog, that Charlie Stross hasn't been posting much lately since he's just been finishing a novel. This isn't a criticism, it's just that, over the last couple of months, I've generally felt behind keeping up on things that I have a long-standing interest in. So if his blog had been more active I probably would have decided that it was too much of a commitment.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 1:33 PM
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|| Connoisseurs of Yglesias blunders will appreciate his latest in which he confuses gasoline and natural gas. |>

Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 2:45 PM
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Yeah, I see the scribd link goes to the Harper's article. Since she bought most (all?) of the winning tickets at the same tiny shop in a podunk town, the conclusions in 22 seem inevitable.

As I recall, the Harper's article ends with the writer asking people in the town, "Do you play the lottery?" and they look at him incredulously, as if to say, "Dude, are you asking if we, like, eat and sleep?"

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 3:11 PM
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23: Just beginning to read the first link, I'm amazed that when asked to name the "most important novel" of the last decade multiple people come up with things by Cory Doctorow.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 3:30 PM
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26: The person who mentions Twilight should get special points.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 4:39 PM
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23: I kind of like the second link, although I admit I'm skimming it.

Came across an article in the new issue of Orion magazine that seems Unfoggedish, although perhaps that just because there are so many professors here.

Starts off with a teacher of college freshman composition deciding he's done with reading essays on abortion and gun control:

I decided that, on my return to Freshman Comp, I would ask my freshmen to [write] on a topic they all presumably knew something about: high school. I began with a simple prompt for the first essay: evaluate the education you received over the last four years.
Next I asked my students to write profiles of their best or worst teachers. They seemed to like this, largely because it gave them a chance to vent some pent-up spleen and settle some scores, at least on paper....
After that exercise, I asked my freshmen to describe assignments, curricula, class discussions, and books they had liked or disliked.... I told my students to try to think of me not as the teacher who would affix grades to their essays, but as an ordinary reader who was interested--which I was, and am--in what goes on these days in American high schools.

It gets a little less interesting after that, while we detour into these-kids-today, ain't-it-awful mode. But then it gets more thoughtful again:

Like my neighbor, many of us assume that the American youth have become captive to popular culture. Certainly this makes teaching much harder today--probably harder than it's ever been--but it also seems like an opportunity to contest the ground we as educators have yielded too quickly to the entertainment industry. Instead of allowing the practice of accumulation to replace authentic experience, we should be creating opportunities for our students to learn how to more fully inhabit their own lives and the larger world.
Which brings me back to the teachers. The first charge: teachers show no passion for their subjects and they don't seem to know their subjects very well. I would wager, along with my students, that many teachers show little passion for their subjects precisely because they don't know them very well, or as well as they might. For this reason, some critics have proposed abolishing entirely the education departments at all American universities.
But if we do not take on the rather cumbersome task of dismantling ed schools, we should at least insist that prospective teachers major in the subjects they plan to teach. That would be the most immediate and dramatic way to increase teachers' knowledge of their subject and, presumably, their passion for it. Nothing I have found, or have observed while mentoring new teachers, inspires more confidence in front of a class than mastery of the material. Teenagers are like hyenas in their ability to sniff out uncertainty and fear in an instructor; quickly they can turn into an unruly pack, and it becomes almost impossible to regain their respect or decorum.
Knowledge of and passion for one's subject represents the surest way for teachers to keep students interested and engaged. Conversely, someone with no passion for a subject should simply not be teaching it.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 6:19 PM
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26 It's not so bad. A ton of people are recommending Peter Watts' Blindsight. Given that we're talking an SF blog, and thus focusing on SF novels, that's a pretty good choice.

Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 7:06 PM
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The "all male authors are disqualified" thread looks a little more interesting, but I don't have the patience to read either one right now. I did recently look over my bookshelf and feel guilty over what a low percentage of the novels I own are written by women.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 7:11 PM
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Glancing at the second thread makes me think that there has been a lot more top notch SFF written by women than men over the past decade. I read those kinds of threads in a 'yup, that _was_ good; gotta be kidding me; huh, never read it, should check it out' manner. Lot more of the former than the latter by women than men. Even though the straight up 'new' 'gritty' fantasy stuff seems to be mostly missing, perhaps in a nod to the blog owner. I also don't see much of the lit SFF stuff like Vandermeer or Link.

Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 7:15 PM
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30: I just looked and am equally guilty.

Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 08-27-11 7:16 PM
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Another test- how many novels on your shelves are by foreigners?

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 6:00 AM
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Do I get to count Polish and French stuff as foreign?

Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 6:11 AM
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What those two threads have told me: I've not been reading novels much in the last 11 years and I don't feel I've missed much. I look at the Grauniad Review pages and most of them make me want to punch someone. (I remember my partner saying back in about 2002 that she didn't find fiction at all interesting any more.)

The SF world is less annoying but I read way less SF than my blogging circle would suggest, certainly for someone who Charlie asked to look over the ms of Halting State. I should probably read more but James Nicoll's reviews put me off.

Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 8:18 AM
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I'm not sure Stross's readership is a good source for fiction recommendations, tbh. I'm big on hating most literary fiction myself, mind. Booker prize winning shite, most of it.

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 8:23 AM
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This op-ed is so incoherent it's a wonder it got published. When I see something this muddled in print, I have to think it came to pass through a social connection or some editor's desire to cross-promote an author being published by a friend. Otherwise it's hard to imagine how this floated to the top of the slush pile.

Seriously, NYT, if you want to publish something intelligent on pacifism, there are probably 80-some better and more thoughtful writers within easy reach.

(If Emerson were here I suppose he'd chastise me for thinking the NY Times had any interest in something other than an incoherent and childlike depiction of pacifism.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 10:32 AM
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I just scrolled through the list of Booker prize winners to see if I agree with ttaM's assessment, and I've read very few. Just Midnight's Children, and the first 50 pages of Possession.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 12:18 PM
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Hmm. Remains of the Day, Possession, and Midnight's Children I would rate very highly, The Blind Assassin a little lower, and The Sea and The English Patient a bit below that, but still quite good. Those seem to be all the Booker prize winners I've read, so I have to conclude that I like to read shite.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 12:28 PM
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Dude, you wasted your time. They made movies out of almost all of those.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-28-11 9:31 PM
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re: 39

It's not that there aren't any good winners, just that the set of books that make the short list each year are very very heavily biased in favour of a very narrow genre of fiction, a genre that I largely (but not always) dislike and which I think has had a fairly pernicious effect on what people think of as quality fiction. In the UK the Booker short list is a big deal, so I'm thinking of not just the winners.

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-11 12:38 AM
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I appreciate that the third response to Stross's women-only post was Jennifer Egan's latest, which is partially sfnal even though I thought that part was much less good than the rest of it.

Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-29-11 12:15 PM
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