Articles on Probability

People are spending hours clicking on a banana to (maybe) make some money. A 300-year-old behavioural economics theory explains why

The new game, which is ranking highly on Steam, involves repeatedly clicking a banana in the hope of maybe – eventually – getting a rare ‘skin’ to trade for real money. And that’s it.

The problems with climate scenarios, and how to fix them

Climate modelling wields huge influence on governments and investors’ decisions. Yet, researchers point out a lack of precision.

How the 18th-century ‘probability revolution’ fueled the casino gambling craze

Early writers on probability had explained how the ‘house advantage’ didn’t need to be large for a gambling enterprise to profit enormously. But gamblers and gambling operators were slow to catch on.

Did the BOM get it wrong on the hot, dry summer? No – predicting chaotic systems is probability, not certainty

We crave certainty in our weather forecasts. But that’s only possible for big weather events such as cyclones and major storms. Everything else is probability.

Many physicists assume we must live in a multiverse – but their basic maths may be wrong

The universe appears to be fine-tuned for life to evolve.

Acapulco was built to withstand earthquakes, but not Hurricane Otis’ destructive winds – how building codes failed this resort city

The best science is not always the best engineering when it comes to building codes. It’s also a problem across the US, as an engineer who works on disaster resilience explains.

Is there really a 1 in 6 chance of human extinction this century?

What are the odds of the end of humanity? There’s no real way to know.

If 1% of COVID-19 cases result in death, does that mean you have a 1% chance of dying if you catch it? A mathematician explains the difference between a population statistic and your personal risk

It’s not entirely accurate to say that you’re more likely to die in a car accident than in a plane crash. Chances are, you’re not the average person.

Cancer evolution is mathematical – how random processes and epigenetics can explain why tumor cells shape-shift, metastasize and resist treatments

An epigenetic model of cancer that incorporates the concept of stochasticity could also explain why cancer risk increases with age and how biological development can be reversible.

Heads or tails: What statistical models tell us about the probability of living beyond 110

The oldest person in the world, Kane Tanaka of Japan, died in April 2022 at 119 years. The record of Jeanne Calment of France, who died at 122, has stood for almost 25 years. Will it be beaten?

433 people win a lottery jackpot – impossible? Probability and psychology suggest it’s more likely than you’d think

A lottery jackpot being won by 433 people in the Phillipines has raised accusations of foul play. Then again – such outcomes usually do.

Nobel Prizes, election outcomes and sports championships – prediction markets try to foresee the future

Buying and selling stocks – with real or play money – is a way to harness the wisdom of the crowd about questions like who is going to win a competition.

It’s impossible to determine your personal COVID-19 risks and frustrating to try – but you can still take action

People want a simple answer. Is this action safe? But despite Anthony Fauci bouncing responsibility for COVID-19 risk assessment to individuals, your risk can’t be boiled down to one probability.

Pandemic decision-making is difficult and exhausting – here’s the psychology that explains why

People tend to dislike uncertainty and risk – two things that are hard to avoid completely during a pandemic. That’s part of why it can feel especially draining to make even small decisions these days.

How accurate is your RAT? 3 scenarios show it’s about more than looking for lines

Rapid Antigen Tests are being rolled out by the millions for Australians to check their COVID status. But a result should be interpreted in context.

Do the math when measuring social distancing: two metres is not the same as six feet

Why haven’t people gotten upset about how our social distancing signs are fostering innumeracy?

What’s a 100-year flood? A hydrologist explains

Flood plain statistics can be confusing. There are better ways to think about the risk of severe weather than 100-year storm or flood.

What the Euro 2020 Panini sticker album can teach us about probability

We used probability to find out what collecting all 678 stickers might cost you.

Who is (probably) today’s best male tennis player?

With the Australian Open about to start this year’s grand slam series, a crunch of the data from past performances gives a hint at who is the current best male player, possibly.

Curious Kids: could our entire reality be part of a simulation created by some other beings?

Philosopher Nick Bostrom’s theory suggests there’s a one-in-three probability we live in a simulation.