Monday, November 20, 2006


Heads! You're going to have an above average day!

Over the past few weeks, i've run an experiment. In the morning, shortly after waking up, i flip a coin. It either says heads or tails. In fact, the coin i use has no possibility of landing on the edge. I've told myself that if it says heads then i'll have a good day. If it says tails, then i'll have a below average day. There are no average days with this scheme. The idea is to track the coin toss, to see how good a predictor it really is.

During the first week, i was surprised at how good a predictor is was. During the second week, i made extra sure that i used the same coin, for fear that the magic was only present in the first, one and only magic coin. And, i took extra care not to toss the coin more than once in a day, lest the coin become tired, or something else might happen to prevent it's magic from working. More on the magic coin in a moment. During the third week, i was looking for a coin with heads on both sides. These days were clearly better.

Well, they were better except for today. This afternoon, i feel the weight of the flu on me again, and i had the runs a couple times - quite painful, and it left me drained. The coin said heads. Well, the coin was tossed in the morning, and the morning was really quite good. After all, i'd had a good night's sleep. Let's see what the coin says now about the afternoon: Heads again. Well, maybe i'm under the weather, but i can still be upbeat, right? Yes, and that's why i'm looking for a coin with heads on both sides.

Superstition is easy to generate. And, when looking for patterns, you are very likely to find them, even if they do not exist. When you look up at the stars, there are at least three dippers. The Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major), the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor), and the Pleiades (M45) all have a dipper pattern. The stars are random, but here's a repeating pattern of not just two or three stars, but Seven Stars. How likely is that?

The coin i'm using is a program on my Palm Pilot. Now, i have two Palms. They're both quite old, and getting unreliable. I use one as a backup for the other. So they have identical programs and data. The better of the two is used as the primary. I recently switched primary and secondary. The other one hasn't gotten any better... The upshot is that i could probably get a program that always says Heads. I'm a web programmer, and could put up a trivial program that does this. In fact, any static web page will do. So when you want to know how your day will turn out, look up this web page. Your answer has been conveniently placed at the top, and in the title.

1 comment:

DQKennard said...

A further experiment: Toss the "coin" for your wife. Make note of the result, but don't tell her. In the evening, see if it was a "good" day for her.