Daily Archives: December 27, 2011

Cultivating a Taste for a Lousy Attitude

One blog I subscribe to and don’t dare delete until I’ve allowed the several minutes it takes to download the images on this dialup is There, I fixed it – Close Enough – Redneck Repairs .   

The folks who run it are insufferably smug, downtalking, and annoying smarty-pantses.  But they evidently have a cadre of followers scouting the planet for good ideas, which they post as ‘fails’, or bad, or quaintly bad taste compared to the tastes of the higher-minded posters and readers there.

So several times every day I open an email of the latest good ideas they’ve posted, allow them time to load and study them carefully.  Ignoring the source.   And every few posts another lightbulb goes off in my head as a result.  Someone, somewhere had a problem similar to one I share, and figured out a way to solve it in a way I might also solve mine.

I suppose the people running the place are just out after hit-counts and making as much money as they can any way they can, and the downtalking smugness, they’ve found in their statistics, appeals to more people than the alternative approaches.

But whatever the reasons, I’m grateful they do what they do, and I sincerely hope they continue doing it.

Old Jules

A Brain Teaser

Re-blogged from Understanding Uncertainty http://understandinguncertainty.org/probability-paradox

I’ve been mulling over this puzzle on David’s blog.  Thought perhaps that microscopic few of you readers who are here because of discussions elsewhere about simultaneity and the ‘randomness’ concept might enjoy it too:

A probability paradox?

david's picture

Submitted by david on Mon, 10/31/2011 – 08:49

I recently tweeted a link to this problem drawn on a blackboard, which got a lot of retweets.

Multiple Choice: If you choose an answer to this question at random, what is the chance you will be correct? A) 25% B) 50% C) 60% D) 25%

This is a fun question whose paradoxical, self-referential nature quickly reveals itself – A) seems to be fine until one realizes the D) option is also 25%.

A quick search reveals hundreds of discussion contributions of this problem, for example here and here and from a year ago. People often appear very confident that their answer is the only possible solution.

I am no logician and so unqualified to place this within the grand structures of mathematical paradoxes. I have not waded through all the discussions and so there may be something I have missed, but in among all the arguments there seem to be four conclusions that could be considered as ‘correct’. These are my personal comments:

1) There can be no solution, since the ambiguity of ‘correct’ makes the question ill-posed.

It’s true the question is ambiguous, but this still seems a bit of a cop-out.

2) There is no solution.

This seems to take this interpretation of the question.

Which answer (or set of answers) of “p%”, is such that the statement ‘the probability of picking such an answer is p%’ is true?

Then this appears to be a well-posed question, but there is no solution.

3) 0%.

Consider a different interpretation of the question.

Is there a p%, such that the statement ‘the probability of picking an answer “p%” is p%’ is true?

Then this appears a well-posed question and has the solution p = 0, even though this is not one of the answers. Of course if answer C) were changed to “0%” (as it is in this 2007 version of the question ), then this would also have no solution.

4) We can produce any answer we want by changing the probability distribution for the choice.

Why should ‘random’ mean an equally likely chance of picking the 4 answers? If we, say, assume the probabilities of choosing (A) (B) (C) (D) to be (10%, 20%, 60%, 10%) then the answer to either formulation (2) and (3) is now “60%”. But if we make the distribution (12.5%, 15%, 60%, 12.5%) then we seem to back to square one again, since there is now both a 25% chance of picking “25%”, and a 60% chance of picking “60%”.

I like conclusion 3) best, ie 0%.

Maybe the main lesson is: ambiguity and paradox are often the basis for a good joke.

It won’t lead you where you’re trying to go, but it might offer a hint as to whether you can get there from here.

But you might also want to have a look at BRAIN TIME [6.24.09]
By David M. Eagleman
http://tinyurl.com/m6zkx4Likely that won’t help, either, but it’s bound to introduce some new doubts if you needed any.

Old Jules

The Long Watch


Lot’s of high-powered rifle ammunition flying around the surrounding ranches this morning. But I don’t think it’s a government SWAT team come all the way out here to shoot my face off between breaths this fine morning.

In fact, I think it’s deer hunters out trying to squeeze in a last-minute set of antlers on an umpty-ump-point-buck to take home and put on the wall.

I only mention this because a few of you readers and a particular slice of the population of preparedness blogs I read are taking the “Come in and get me coppers!” approach to reflecting on what the US Congress has been doing lately.  There’s a high-anxiety factor leading people to say things on blogs suggesting they think if the government wants them it’s going to have a tough job on its hands getting them. 

Anyone who stops to think about this concept a moment ought to be able to figure out that’s not how it’s going to play out.  Even if they’re correct in thinking someone thinks they’re important enough to send in the cavalry to get them. 

No matter how good you guys who’ve been collecting a thousand different great knives and 200 each calibers of weaponry and ammunition anticipating what you believe is happening, if they want you, they’re going to get you.  If you’ve been shouting challenges at them from your blogs, they’ll most likely do it to your face between two breaths from a distance of a quarter-mile while you take an outdoor leak.

This isn’t the best moment in history to be talking about going to war with the US government.  Even in a whisper.  They’ve spent the last decade developing tactics, strategies, surveillance gear and weaponry intended to deal with people a lot uglier, smarter, sneakier and more highly motivated than any US citizen is likely to be.

I’m not saying what the US Congress did over the past couple of weeks won’t change a lot of things in ways you’ve come to see as your ‘rights’.  I believe it probably will.  I’m just saying you might be well advised to think things through more carefully than you’ve been doing.  You’re all dressed up to play checkers but the game has changed to chess.

Thinks I. 

Old Jules