Let’s say I toss a coin and get 5 heads in a row; then I dare you to guess what I’ll get next. Do you really have 1/2 chance of guessing …

Answer by Michael Lamar:

In a way, your question gets at the heart of the difference between probability and statistics.  In probability, we pick a probability model to describe some experiments and then we use that model to make predictions about the outcome of such experiments.  A natural choice for a model to describe a coin flip is the 50/50 heads/tails model with independent flips.  Using this model, we predict that, in an experiment in which n consecutive flips have come up heads after tossing the coin n times, there is still a 50% chance that the next flip will show a head.

In statistics, we try to understand what model makes sense based on the outcomes of previous experiments.  So if we see n heads in the first n flips, we infer that some model other than the 50/50 independent model might be the right one.

In other words, if your ask a probabilist what is the probability that the 100th toss of a fair coin will be heads if the first 99 tosses were all heads, he would correctly answer "50%."  If you ask the same question to a statistician, she would correctly respond, "There is no way that your coin is really fair."

Let's say I toss a coin and get 5 heads in a row; then I dare you to guess what I'll get next. Do you really have 1/2 chance of guessing …

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s