The Improbability Principle: Why coincidences, miracles and rare events happen all the time

The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day
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David Hand on the five laws of the improbability principle

Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day The Improbability Principle and millions of other books are available for .. At blackjack, two people come to the table at the same time and both get. Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand .. At blackjack, two people come to the table at the same time and both get.

He has published scientific papers and 25 books: his next book, The Improbability Principle, is due out in February He has broad research interests in areas including classification, data mining, anomaly detection, and the foundations of statistics. His applications interests include psychology, physics, and the retail credit industry - he and his research group won the Credit Collections and Risk Award for Contributions to the Credit Industry.

The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

He was made OBE for services to research and innovation in Back English Thai. Why is it that incredibly unlikely phenomena actually happen quite regularly and why should we, in fact, expect such things to happen? Here, in this highly original book - aimed squarely at anyone with an interest in coincidences, probability or gambling - eminent statistician David Hand answers this question by weaving together various strands of probability into a unified explanation, which he calls the improbability principle.

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Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

Aczel The story of how we got our numberstold through one mathematicians journey to find zero The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Smith, of Sheffield, England, was in the habit of collecting horse manure for his tomato plants from the woods behind the house.

The Ignorance equation " WHat are the chances"

One day he saw another man doing the same. When he sat down on a bench to rest, the other man did the same.

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His name? Also Eric W. Further discussion revealed that the first Eric W. Smith had the middle name Wales, while the second had the name Walter.

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So it was not an exact match — but near enough to be surprising. But what if they had different middle initials?

Now it is not an exact match, but is it still surprising? How far can we relax the conditions for a match before we are surprised by it? How near does it have to be? Extracted from The Improbability Principle website, improbability-principle. DH : In technical statistical terms, that's exactly what this law shows — things which ought to be expected can seem quite extraordinary if you've got the wrong model.

I give many examples in my book, but familiar ones are extreme financial events. If you base your thinking on a normal distribution model, then incredibly unlikely things seem to occur. It's difficult to divide up the contribution of the five constituent laws of the improbability principle, but it's certainly true that the unjustified assumption of independence is one way in which the law of the improbability lever manifests itself.

David Hand

Charles Perrow's theory of normal accidents is based on the notion that insignificant errors or flaws can combine in the complex interacting systems and machines which characterise our society to lead to major disasters. And, in fact, the false assumption of independence was one of the factors which led to the financial crash. The aggregate consumer housing debt risk models used prior to the US subprime mortgage crisis assumed independence of the default risk of individual mortgages, when the mortgages actually had highly correlated creditworthiness, via the common factor of inflated property values.

As such, how can statisticians combat these abuses in statistical application to help minimise the Type I error in published manuscripts? DH : I agree — the laws do manifest themselves all over the place. Carry out enough significance tests and you should expect to see some significant results, even if there's no underlying effect.

Statisticians can help to avoid that particular problem by using multiple testing controls, like false discovery rate methods. But, of course, this doesn't completely solve the problem — something I discuss in the book. Statisticians know how important it is to develop hypotheses on one data set and test them on another, but sometimes it's not clear whether a data set has already contributed to the idea for a hypothesis.

In general, while statisticians are better placed than most people to spot when an event or phenomenon arises as a consequence of statistical artefacts, such as the laws of the improbability principle, even we can be fooled. What are the differences, if any, between those subcategories of improbable occurrences? Is the relative size of the associated probabilities the only difference, or is there something more to it?

DH : There are no real physical or objective differences.

The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

They're all simply rare events. But the way we look at them means we may see them as different.

A miracle, of course, occurs when we attribute a supernatural cause to such an event, instead of looking at the improbability principle and doing the maths. A coincidence is when two or more things appear to come together purely by accident — like Anthony Hopkins finding, on the seat next to him, a copy of the book he'd failed to find in his search of London's bookshops.

But they're all improbable events. PW : I see. Others might define a miracle differently — like Albert Einstein, who suggested that there are two ways to live: as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is a miracle. After writing this book, with which approach to life do you more strongly identify? After reading the book, people sometimes ask me if understanding these amazing coincidences makes them seem pedestrian and ordinary, and if I've lost my sense of wonder.

My answer is that the opposite is the case, and I sometimes illustrate that by reference to the rainbow. The fact that we understand the physics by which light reflects and refracts around raindrops doesn't make it any less awesome when we see a rainbow arcing across the sky. PW : You write that the tendency to attribute rare or unexplainable events to a supernatural power is a perhaps a poor explanation, but is chance really better?

http://handtwins.com/smartphone-listening-samsung-galaxy-m10.php DH : I think chance is better. The point about chance is that while we might not be able to say what the outcome will be for any particular event, when we start to aggregate events we find the aggregates have patterns.

The Improbability Principle Quotes

And exactly the same applies to other things. While I might not know if this medicine will be more effective than that for you in particular, I might well know that the first has had a higher success rate than the second on people in the past. In short, chance has laws which we've slowly understood, and we can use those to limit the range of things which are likely to happen in the future.