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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Feel My Pain

Earlier today I was labeled a probability worshiper by Dan over at Dy/Dan (which incidentally, as often as I read his blog, I still haven't determined how its title ought to be pronounced.) I admit it, I love statistics. Next to basic arithmetic, it is the most useful branch of mathematics and the most misunderstood. There is absolutely no better example of the disconnect between this mathematical truth and the reality of the people than the hit "game" show Deal or No Deal.

When I watch this show, which is to say less than a handful of times, I feel physical pain. Real, horrible, blood pouring from my nose and ears pain. So much so that I find myself yelling at the screen, as though I were could some how will them into better judgment. (Don't go in the basement! Don't open that door! Stop having premarital sex while a camp counselor at this creepy summer camp don't you know there's a maniac with a predilection for machetes on the loose you moron!!!!!) In the few times I have watched until the end, I have never-I mean never- seen a contestant walk out on the top of the curve. The same pattern occurs over and over. At first, the odds are in favor of them at least walking out with some reasonable amount of money. After all, something is always better than nothing. Then the excitement builds, and this excitement it seems is indirectly proportional to deductive reasoning. The banker begins to make offers, which are invariable statistically better than the odds the contestant faces. Eventually, a tipping point occurs, and those deals become worse and worse. The action follows the outline of a wave, and no one ever seems to buy out on the crest. The bubble always bursts.

Much like my brain when I allow myself to watch.