Meet the man who cashes in when you tank that NBA half-court shot contest

Probability in Sports, Gambling –

Everyone knows those insane sports promotions that seem unwinnable, like the million-dollar half-court shot, or those car dealerships that promise if, say, the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl, that every car they sell that July will be free. [T]he odds are so astronomically insane that it makes sense for insurance companies to back them. The whole process is explained in a fascinating new piece for Bloomberg Business that delves into the life of Bob Hamman, the man who “underwrites the unlikely.” As Bloomberg puts it, Hamman is “a sort of cross between a bookie, insurance executive, and math professor, without actually being any of them.”

Marah Eakin,, October 30, 2015

Forget Oil Glut and War. Water is Real Threat for Mideast

Probability in Politics, Climate –

Compulsive Texting Takes Toll on Teenagers

Probability in Psychology, Education –

For girls, compulsive texting is more than just a distraction – it is also associated with lower academic performance.

The study of more than 400 eighth and 11th graders found that many teenage texters had a lot in common with compulsive gamblers, including losing sleep because of texting, problems cutting back on texting and lying to cover up the amount of time they spent texting.

Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times, October 12, 2015

Effectiveness of Talk Therapy Is Overstated, a Study Says

Probability in Psychology, Health –

Medical literature has overstated the benefits of talk therapy for depression, in part because studies with poor results have rarely made it into journals, researchers reported Wednesday.


Poor People Are More Likely To Die While Driving Than Ever Before

Probability in Safety, Economics, Health –

We’re led to believe that traffic fatalities are on the decline, and indeed they are—but only for the well off. New research says that for lower income, less educated individuals, the chance of dying in a vehicular-related incident has actually risen significantly.

Alex Lloyd, Yahoo! Autos, October 2, 2105

Does a 1,000-year storm really happen every 1,000 years?

Probability in Climate –

South Carolina flooding

One of the more common mistakes is to assume that a 100-year flood means something that happens every 100 years, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program. 

“Commonly, people interpret the 100-year flood definition to mean ‘once every 100 years,’” according to the agency. “This is wrong. You could experience a 100-year flood two times in the same year, two years in a row or four times over the course of 100 years. You could also not experience a 100-year flood over the course of 200 or more years.”

Technically the measurement is a probability. A 100-year flood means that there is one chance in 100 of a flood occurring in each year. A 500-year flood means there is 0.2% chance of the flooding or rain event occurring each year and a 1,000-year event has a 0.1% chance of happening in any year.

Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2015

Study Finds Surprising Byproduct of Middle Eastern Conflicts: Cleaner Air

Probability in Climate, Politics – 

Civil unrest and humanitarian crises can now be detected from space — because of, somewhat surprisingly, cleaner air.

A paper published on Friday in the journal Science Advances analyzed satellite data from observations of major cities in the Middle East and found that measurements of nitrogen oxides in the air around those cities provided insights into the effects of war, civil unrest and other crises.

John Schwartz, New York Times, August 21, 2015

Wherever You Go, Your Personal Cloud Of Microbes Follows

Probability in Health –

Thomas Kuhlenbeck/Ikon Images/Corbis

Remember Pig-Pen? The little kid from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons who walked around in a cloud of dirt? Well, the human body does spew a cloud, but instead of dirt it contains millions of microorganisms.

“It turns out that that kid is all of us,” says James Meadow, a microbial ecologist who led research about the microbes shadowing us during postdoctoral work at the University of Oregon. “It’s just a microscopic cloud that’s really hard to see.”

Each of us carries around millions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and viruses — on the inner and outer surfaces of our bodies. Most of them aren’t dangerous. In fact, growing evidence indicates that they help us in lots of ways. Scientists call this collection of organisms our microbiome.

Rob Stein, NPR, September 22, 2015


Worried About The Stock Market? Whatever You Do, Don’t Sell.

Probability in Investing, Psychology –