[Photo by Micah Sittig.]
I used to fill the margins of my math newsletter with quotations and tidbits of math history. Here are some quotes from the July/August 1999 issue on probability, along with a few others I’ve stumbled on while browsing the internet.
No knowledge of probabilities helps us to know what conclusions are true. There is no direct relation between the truth of a proposition and its probability.
The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.
How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not chance the antithesis of all law?
— Joseph Bertrand
Calcul des probabilités
I know too well that these arguments from probabilities are imposters, and unless great caution is observed in the use of them, they are apt to be deceptive.
How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem, yea, or so much as make a good discourse in prose? And may not a little book be as easily made by chance as this great volume of the world?
“I think you’re begging the question,” said Haydock, “and I can see looming ahead one of those terrible exercises in probability where six men have white hats and six men have black hats and you have to work it out by mathematics how likely it is that the hats will get mixed up and in what proportion. If you start thinking about things like that, you would go round the bend. Let me assure you of that!”
— Agatha Christie
The Mirror Crack’d (Miss Marple Mysteries)
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
It may be that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong – but that is the way to bet.
Probable-Possible, my black hen,
She lays eggs in the Relative When.
She doesn’t lay eggs in the Positive Now
Because she’s unable to postulate how.
To Be Continued…
Read all the posts from the July/August 1999 issue of my Mathematical Adventures of Alexandria Jones newsletter.
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