The Mystery of Chance: With Guests Andy Marocco & Tom Gilovich

01.21.2019 - By Choiceology with Katy Milkman

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Have you ever seen a cloud overhead that looks very much like, say, a rabbit? Or maybe you’ve found a potato chip that had an uncanny resemblance to Elvis, or a cornflake that was almost exactly the shape of the state of Texas. What are the chances?

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we explore curious events and mysterious patterns in order to reveal the human habit of ascribing meaning to randomness.

Andy Marocco of the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum joins Katy to revisit some of the most famous and enduring unsolved air and naval mysteries that have occurred inside the “treacherous” Bermuda Triangle. You’ll hear about several famous disappearances, with a focus on the harrowing tale of Flight 19 in which several planes and airmen vanished without a trace.

Next, we conduct a simple experiment--or is it a magic trick?--involving a series of coin tosses. Our game master will attempt to identify a truly random list from a pile of imposter lists, using nothing but mental prowess. (If you’re still skeptical about how “lumpy” randomness is, just notice how many possible outcomes of four coin flips include either three heads or three tails in a row: HHHH, HHHT, HHTH, HHTT, HTHH, HTHT, HTTH, HTTT, THHH, THHT, THTH, THTT, TTHH, TTHT, TTTH, TTTT.)

Then we hear from Cornell University psychology professor Tom Gilovich about randomness as it pertains to iPods, jellybeans, faces, and canals on Mars.

Finally, Katy Milkman offers tips on how basic statistical analysis can help you make better decisions.

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