That Random Coin Toss? Not So Random Afterall...

from the a-weaker-man-might-be-moved-to-reexamine-his-faith dept

One of my all-time favorite scenes in a play and movie, is the scene in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead where every coin toss comes up heads, leading to a bit of a philosophical discussion on probability. Of course, the randomness of the coin toss is the quintessential example of a random event and is used regularly for a variety of situations in which randomness is required, let alone expected. Except... it turns out the common wisdom may be wrong. Paul Kedrosky has the news of a test that showed that if you ask people to try flip a coin and get more heads than tails, they will, and not by a small margin either. In the test, 13 people were asked to flip a coin 300 times, trying to get as many heads as possible. All 13 participants got more heads than tails. Seven out of the thirteen had statistically significant margins of heads over tails (meaning almost certainly not a matter of chance). The highest was one individual had 68% of the coin flips land heads. In other words, a coin toss isn't particularly random.

Filed Under: coin toss, random


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  1. identicon
    ntlgnce, 13 Dec 2009 @ 9:24am

    Of course!

    Scientists are just now figuring out that one can flip a coin to make it land on heads or tails? Try this, grab a coin, place it on your indexfinger resting on the fingernail of your thumb, pay attention to which side is up, flip the coin and catch it flipping it to the oppisite wrist. What is it? Repete steps above a few times. Now place the coin with the heads side always up, and flip the coin. Your probably going to get the same % of results as the study in the story. What would be a real interesting story would be the nano second timing the human brain has to be able to catch the coin at nearly the the exact time every time.

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