Slowly and surely we are sinking into the darkness of a British winter. This will be my first in two years, not that I’m boasting or anything.
Having spent last winter in New Zealand where it was summer I am really feeling the cold as the days shorten here in Plymouth. How I’m going to deal with things when the temperature actually gets down into single figures I have no idea, it’s entirely possible that I’ll try and hibernate until spring. Bears do it and have you ever seen an unhappy wild bear? Exactly.
I hear that this winter, so far, has been very mild compared to last year. I admit that although I’m not a massive fan of the cold I do rather enjoy snuggling in my nice thick duvet. Sure that undermines the undoubtedly manly demeanor that I project into the world but it’s a hit I’m willing to take. It would be great to see some crazy snow – that was the only bad thing about missing last winter!
How many people do you think enter the lottery with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6? Zero, nill, nothing. Surely no-one would enter the lottery with these numbers, or any consecutive numbers because they’ll never come up. Statistically though a consecutive run of numbers like this has the same probability of occurring so why do we instinctively mistrust it? Instinct is the nub of the problem, we have not evolved to have any natural understanding of odds. So we go on what we’ve experienced instead – this is actually why people enter the lottery in the first place. Saying that there is a one in fourteen million chance of winning the lottery doesn’t help anyone, we can’t imagine what this actually means. Our experience of the lottery however is that most weeks someone wins, and every week the numbers are ‘random’ i.e. something like 3, 5, 17, 20, 35, 47.
To some extent the media coverage skews our judgment, you never hear a news report saying ‘and last week 7 million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand people didn’t win anything in the lottery’.
Or to put it another way lets assume that eight million people play on a weekly basis. To give equal coverage of winners to losers with a ten second skit on each the news would need to be two and a half years long, every week. Even a one second clip of the winner with a thumbs up and every other entrant just looking bored or morose the full coverage would still last for ninety-two days.
So going back to a consecutive string of numbers. I think this is actually one of the few times that everyone has an instinctual understanding of the odds, but they are not just the odds of a straight coming out of the lottery machines, they are actually the odds of any combination of numbers coming out. Essentially what I’m saying is that if you’re unwilling to play the lottery with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 then you shouldn’t play because that bad feeling you get about the chances of those numbers winning are actually your chances of winning regardless of which numbers you choose.
Yesterday I went for a run in the morning. ‘So what’ you may ask. Well for the last three months my level of physical activity has been embarrassingly low. I’m not kidding, if I had to total the number of miles traveled under my own steam I very much doubt they’d exceed ten.
In. Three. Months!
As you may imagine it wasn’t the best run I’ve ever done. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it averaged out to more of a brisk walk. This is slightly disheartening because it implies that my base fitness is very low.
On the plus side though it means I’ll see a heck of a lot of improvement over the next few week!
I’ve started on the 100-pressup routine again. Again again. Started at week three this time after doing the obligatory test and finding that was appropriate. With luck this will be another area where I’ll see fairly rapid improvements as I get back to where I was several months ago.
All this makes me rather glad that I’ve been doing a bit of coding in my oceans of spare time at the moment. Although I have to say that this seems to have come back, or perhaps been preserved, much better and easier than the physical stuff!
I’ll keep you posted.
A Russian lieutenant colonel who’s cool head prevented World war three: Stanislav Petrov. Makes me wonder how many other unsung heroes there are around the world!
I’ve just finished watching ‘The Cell’ on BBC iplayer. Not the rather dodgy film with J.Lo in but a three part documentary originally aired on BBC4 about the scientific process that led to the current understanding of the cell and life on earth. It is totally mind blowing how far science has come in just four centuries, and to be honest I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could recommend it before it expires on the iplayer site (runs out this evening). It served – for me – to highlight how much of what we take for granted took massive intuitive leaps for scientist of the day. For example, when the cell was first discovered by a linen maker in Denmark it was well understood that new life just appeared. Literally just popped into existence. There was even a written method for ‘appearing’ mice. Leave some grain in a jar along with some sweaty rags and ‘pop’ – one week later you had mice.
Then from seeing the cell for the first time there was a long time and lots of experimentation to find some ‘well known’ facts. e.g. All life is made of cells, cells have a nucleus, the nucleus contains chromosomes, cells with-out a nucleus or with more than one don’t work. Chromosomes are DNA, DNA is the code of life etc.
In the last episode the current state of the art research was outlined. In Harvard scientists are on the brink of making life.
Making life. I don’t think there is any way in written words to express how completely ground-breaking, history making and philosophically challenging this is. As soon as the human race has made life then we can essentially act like gods in our own playground. A scary thought at the best of times – but it’s actually happening. The next ten years have the potential to be very very interesting time to live in!!