Christmas Shuffle [Repost]

The Best of ChristmasOriginally posted on 20 December 2012.

Last year our eldest daughter (then 3, now 4), The Frogger, fell in love with the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. This year she is obsessed with “A Holly Jolly Christmas”. It is no coincidence that both songs are performed by Burl Ives in the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Cut to me, in the car, frantically pushing buttons to cycle through CDs and play Burl Ives singing “A Holly Jolly Christmas” in order to fulfill the heartfelt request of my child. Experienced parents will know that there are a variety of potential motivations for such behavior beyond simply avoiding a tantrum, for example cutting short a half-hour of repeatedly yelling the same three lines of the song with 73.21% accuracy.

Having found the correct CD and as I pushed buttons to get to the right track, I began to wonder if I was taking the shortest route to my song of choice. There are three possible routes to any given track on my car’s CD player. Continue reading “Christmas Shuffle [Repost]”

Chance & Necessity in Baseball

I know people don’t like whiners…but the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Last night, my very clichéd gripe about the abuse of statistics perpetrated by broadcasters of playoff baseball spun into a discussion of statistics and probability, including the contribution of computational models from renowned and/or infamous UC Berkeley faculty. As one is obligated to do in such situations, I Storify-ed it (and continue to as the conversation, like the playoffs, is ongoing).
Image from xkcd by Randall Munroe (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.5)
Image from xkcd by Randall Munroe (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.5)

On the road and in your genome with Poisson

This will probably seem simple and obvious to many Finch and Pea patrons, but one of the mind-blowing features of nature, the real world, Plato’s cave, or what have you, is that very different phenomena often give rise to the same pattern, because they share a fundamental quantitative relationship. The world really does run on math. Some of the best examples of this are probability distributions, like the Poisson distribution, which is basically the law of rare events. I like to think of the Poisson distribution as the result of an infinite number of flips of some giant cosmic coin which only rarely, very rarely, lands on the side I’m hoping for.

The classic illustration of a Poisson distribution is the randomly-passing car problem. Continue reading “On the road and in your genome with Poisson”