The Perfect Perfect Game in Baseball

Baseball statistician Bill James, the inventor of sabermetrics, devised what he called a “game score” to measure pitching performance in a baseball game. The larger the game score, the stronger the pitching performance. James’s game score is calculated as follows, with points added or subtracted for every out that the pitcher records: 1. Begin with […]

Probabilistic Miracles: Why Nothing in Nature is Physically Impossible

The physically impossible differs from the logically impossible. It’s logically impossible that 2 plus 2 equals 5 or that a bachelor is married. On the other hand, it’s physically impossible to build a perpetual motion machine or for a human at a high-jump competition to clear 100 feet. The Second Law of Thermodyanmics is supposed […]

Getting Value for Your Money — And Why It Matters

We all want a good deal, and we feel bad when we don’t get one, especially if we learn later that we could have gotten something much cheaper than what we actually paid for it. In that case, we feel ripped off — that we’ve lost something. Most of us don’t have a lot of […]

Decoys, Neuromarketing, and Behavioral Economics

Richard Feynman, one of the best mathematical physicists of the last century, thought that a particularly important virtue of scientists was not to fool people. To this Feynman, with his keen sense of irony, added that the easiest person to fool is oneself.¬†Feynman, here, was speaking to the confirmation bias that infects so much of […]

Vaccines and Autism — What Might the Numbers Be Saying?

While autism rates in the United States have exploded over the last 50 years, autism’s prevalence is still small enough that in most nuclear families children are not affected by this disorder. Still, the prevalence is now sufficiently high that most people know some family affected by this disorder. This was not the case even […]

What are you going to believe, me or the numbers?

In the classic Marx Brothers comedy DUCK SOUP, Groucho finds Chico with Groucho’s girlfriend in a bedroom. Chico tries to deny any hanky-panky by asking “What are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Obviously, Groucho should believe his own eyes and not Chico’s baldfaced lies. And yet, in many circumstances of life, […]

Hurricane Sandy, Rising Oceans, and Global Warming — What Are the Numbers Really Saying?

Debates in our culture are increasingly polarized. This is especially evident in the debate over global warming. Thus, those who think man-made or anthropogenic global warming is real and destructive take one side. On the other side are the global warming skeptics, who think that humanity’s contribution to global warming is negligible and that our […]