Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola hunting

Here's a quick prediction for what happens now that the UK has started screening people for Ebola at Heathrow (soon to be extended to other airports and terminals).  They'll find a lot of people with minor stomach bugs of some sort.

Ebola virus
Image: CDC

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What price a preposition?

The headline to this article made me aware of a pretty big ambiguity in its contents: there's a big difference between saying that "in 30 seats UKIP are likely to win", and "UKIP are likely to win 30 seats". 

To see this, consider the statement: "Chelsea are likely to win every game they play this season".  Interpreted one way, you're just saying that Chelsea are favourites in each game they play (plausible).  Another meaning would be that Chelsea are likely to win all the games they play, which is exceptionally unlikely (no-one has ever come close).

Of course the results in different seats in general elections are strongly correlated, much more so than football matches.  But I'd still like to know what exactly the Guardian means.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Can a gamble ever be right or wrong?

A couple of weeks back I was feeling fairly smug, having put a bit of money on a 'No' vote in the Scottish referendum.  I then placed a few quid on UKIP to win the Heywood and Middleton by-election last Thursday, which they didn't.  But the latter result was quite close, so I felt that somehow it had been a 'good bet' to have made.  So what makes a person right or wrong to have placed a bet in the first place?  (Mathematically that is, leave your morals at your home page.)