What Are the Chances?

Musings on everyday probability

Does this graph tell the real story about wages for low-skilled workers?

January 13, 2019 By Alan Salzberg

An article and accompanying graph in the New York Times claims that low-skilled workers are not gaining the advantage they once were by moving to big cities.  But it misses something important, calling the whole claim into question.

Will your luck turn?

May 31, 2018 By Alan Salzberg

In the third quarter of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals last week, Boston missed all 14 3-pointers they attempted.  This led the announcer to say something like, "by the law of averages, they are bound to improve."  But will they?

Winning an election by 1 vote. What are the chances?

December 20, 2017 By Alan J. Salzberg
Voting is thought of as the most important civic duty.  But does your one vote really count?  I mean, how many elections are won by just a vote?  Certainly not many.  Yet, I just read that in Virginia...

Is the NY Times right about college diversity?

August 24, 2017 By Alan J. Salzberg
The New York Times reported today that "Blacks and Hispanics are more underrepresentated at top colleges than 35 years ago."  Is this correct? The short...

What are the chances of three snow days in one winter?

May 4, 2017 By Alan J. Salzberg
Any time there is even a ghost of a chance of snow, my three kids get very excited (ok, let's face it, being a southern transplant to NY, so do I).  We go to https://www.snowdaycalculator.com in the h...

Super Bowl Coin Toss

January 14, 2016 By Alan J. Salzberg
Is there any advantage to calling the coin toss in the Super Bowl?  It doesn't appear so, as in the 49 games to date, tails has come up 25 times and heads has come up 24 (

Bridge splits re-visited

October 21, 2015 By Alan J. Salzberg
A couple years back, I wrote on the chances of various "splits" in bridge (and explained why this is something bridge players care about) in 

Going to College: what are the chances?

May 28, 2015 By Alan J. Salzberg
The NY Times answers it

To Huck or not to Huck?

February 16, 2015 By Alan J. Salzberg
I play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee, a game akin to football in that there are end zones, but akin to soccer in that there is constant action until someone scores.  In Ultimate, you can only advance by t...

Past posts can be found here...

February 16, 2015 By Alan J. Salzberg
For the last year or so, I used my other site for blogging.  You can find those posts at www.what-are-the-chances.blogspot.com .  

What is a p value and why do you care?

February 16, 2015 By Alan J. Salzberg
I feel like I've written this too many times, but here we go again. There was a splendid article in the 

Citibike Rides--what are the chances?

January 13, 2014 By Alan J. Salzberg
I have been working with Joe Jansen on the Citibike data in the R Language.  Citibike is New York's bike sharing program, which started in may and currently has...

What are the chances of different "splits" in bridge?

August 13, 2013 By Alan J. Salzberg
If you know how to play bridge, skip to the fourth paragraph! In bridge, 13 cards are dealt to each of 4 players (so all 52 cards are dealt).  Players sitting across from each other are...

Simpson's Paradox

April 29, 2013 By Alan J. Salzberg
A North Slope real estate broker (named North) is trying to convince you that North Slope is a more affluent neighborhood than South Slope.  To prove it, he explains that professionals in North Slope...

The Worst Graph

November 12, 2012 By Alan J. Salzberg
One reason for quotes like there are "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics" is because of graphs like these: