4°C rise in global temp to hit daytime outings in North

Probability in Climate, Economics and Business –

If the world warms up by 4°C, there is a 30 per cent probability that temperatures will be so high that even a moderate outdoor work cannot be carried out during the hottest month in North India, a study on the risks of climate change has said. There will also be a 40 per cent chance that individuals in North India will not be able to participate in competitive outdoor activities during summers, if the global temperature goes up by average 1°C. An international group of climate scientists, energy analysts and experts from finance and military recently released an independent assessment of the risks of climate change commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Tribune, July 20, 2015

The 100-year event

Probability in Technology, Politics –

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The July 20 bridge collapse on Interstate 10 near Desert Center has resulted in similar public outcries that have been heard from many communities recently (Wickenburg, Chandler, etc.) regarding the failure of our government to heed warnings about the potential infrastructure stresses associated with larger, more dynamic storm systems. “Why didn’t they build it bigger?” “It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen.” “I told the council that this would happen.”

Our infrastructure is built upon a statistical chance that, once in 100 years, an event of a certain intensity and duration will occur. The 100-year probability represents the most economically feasible design criteria, not a guarantee that a larger storm may impact the infrastructure. We are witnessing events that might possibly be considered 500-year events: however, it is likely that the public would balk at the increased costs to design and build the more robust structures needed to withstand these historically low probability stressors.

Unfortunately, these costs, and the direct impacts to the public, may be the precursor to the adverse impacts resulting from a changing ecosystem. Climate warming concerns, whether man-induced or naturally occurring, are not necessarily limited to coastlines.

Richard Brose, R.G.

Flagstaff, Arizona

The Spectrum, July 26, 2015

Editorial: Michigan must reduce prison population – Allowing more inmates out on parole could lessen corrections costs, but safety must be a priority

Probability in Crime and Safety –

There’s little doubt lowering the number of inmates in Michigan’s prison would reduce costs, which is one of the goals of Gov. Rick Snyder’s criminal justice initiative. Yet early release programs are hard to run well and high recidivism rates have caused most professionals in the field to tread cautiously when talking about changing the parole system.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, attempts to address the governor’s call for smarter use of jails and prisons. The idea is not new. Last year similar legislation died because of opposition from Attorney General Bill Schuette and local prosecutors. Even now, Heise’s bill does not have the support of that group.

The Detroit News, July 27, 2015


Breaking down the risk of nuclear deterrence failure

Probability in Politics, Technology –

In the international debate over nuclear disarmament, one long-running bone of contention is the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence—that is, using the threat of nuclear retaliation to prevent another state from going to war. Nuclear-armed states claim that maintaining (or only gradually reducing) the large arsenals required for deterrence is the safer path. Many non-nuclear states claim that nuclear deterrents make the world less safe, and that therefore rapid disarmament is required.

Nuclear arsenals do clearly have some deterrent effect, but how do we know whether disarmament or nuclear deterrence will make the world safer? It’s difficult to precisely calculate the risk of any kind of war, under any circumstances. In fact, though, it is possible to apply a rough risk analysis to the question without knowing exact probabilities or potential severity. And doing so strongly suggests that disarmament is far preferable to continued nuclear deterrence as a means of protecting humanity.

Seth Baum, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 27, 2015

How statistics guided me through life, death and ‘The Price Is Right’

Probability in Health, Gambling, Psychology –

As an assistant professor of decisions, operations and technology management, my research focuses on medical decision-making under uncertainty. I previously built mathematical models of the spread of HIV, studied which factors contribute to long stays in the intensive-care unit and evaluated where to optimally locate Ebola treatment centers in West Africa. For years, I have used statistics to help fight diseases that kill millions. Now, I found myself fighting to save a single particular life: my own.

Elisa Long, Washington Post, August 7, 2015

Why Putting a Number to C.E.O. Pay Might Bring Change

Probability in Psychology, Economics and Business –

Their thinking goes like this: Because the rule will generate an easily graspable and often decidedly shocking number, it may energize a cadre of new combatants in the executive pay fight. And because these newcomers — company employees, state governments and possibly even consumers — will most likely be more vocal on the matter than institutional investors have been, the executive pay bubble might actually start to deflate.

The fact is, few institutional shareholders appear to be distressed by excessive pay levels at companies whose shares they hold. A tally by the Shareholder Forum of the most recent votes on pay practices at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index shows a median support level from shareholders of 94.9 percent this year.

Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times, August 6, 2015

Lawns are a soul-crushing timesuck and most of us would be better off without them

Probability in Climate, Psychology –

Perhaps not surprisingly, the traditional American lawn has come in for some scrutiny in recent years. Some, like Baker, are abandoning regular lawn maintenance out of environmental concerns — lawns require fertilizer to grow and gas to mow, and they take up space that could otherwise be used for animal habitat.

Other folks are ditching their lawns because of the amount of water they soak up — 9 billion gallons of it per day, according to the EPA. Think of the miracle that is the modern water supply — pristine water pumped hundreds of miles, passed through shiny state-of-the-art filtration systems, treated with miracle chemicals that keep our teeth from falling out of our heads, and available on-demand at the twist of a knob. And then consider that we intentionally dump billions of gallons of that water out on the ground!

Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, August 4, 2015

Loss of marital bliss may reduce probability of second child: study

Probability in Psychology, Relationships –

After the birth of the first child, mothers and fathers reported a loss of well-being.

Parents, please listen carefully. If you do not enjoy the company of a second child, look back to find out if the happiness quotient has taken a nosedive between you and your spouse after the birth of your firstborn.

According to an interesting study, couples who perceive a drop in happiness in the first year after they become parents have a lower probability of having a second child.

The effect is especially strong for mothers and fathers who are well educated and older.

IANS, Express Tribune, August 8, 2015

Is 2015 The Year Baseball’s Projections Failed?

Probability in Sports –


We’re not picking on Fangraphs. The 79 wins it forecast for the Royals before the season started (barring major personnel changes or extreme breakouts from current players, the preseason forecast largely determines a team’s rest-of-season projection) were actually on the high side. Although KC won 89 games and went to the World Series in 2014, a consensus average of betting over/unders2 and other statistical systems3 would have pegged the Royals for 76 wins this year, a number that will likely end up at least 15 games low. Any projection system tied to the Royals’ comparatively weak preseason forecast would have been similarly bearish on their future record.

And the Royals aren’t alone: The Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees could all potentially beat their consensus preseason projections by double digits, while the Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners may undershoot theirs by that margin.


Neil Payne and Rob Arthur, FiveThirtyEight, August 7, 2015

An App That Knows Why You Cough Smartphone apps in development will help diagnose and manage diseases—including cough causes, sleep apnea and bipolar disorder

Probability in Health, Technology –

Medical researchers are tapping into sensors in the smartphones we carry with us just about everywhere. A forthcoming wave of apps will help diagnose conditions, spot trouble from afar, and provide a window into our day-to-day condition and health stats so we can get care when we need it most.

HOW IT WORKS: Because respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, alter the structure of the respiratory tract, each one creates a unique sound signature in a patient’s cough. Based on four to five coughs, signal-processing algorithms in this app can detect those patterns, identifying both the type and severity of an ailment.

Connie Lozzio, Scientific American, July 14, 2015