Software Musings

Betting on Certainties

Posted on: 24/06/2014

There is a short paragraph that has been puzzling me. It comes from the article “The Strangest Numbers in String Theory” by John C Baez and John Huerta, collected in “The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012” which I bought last November in a bookshop in Sydney, Australia—a bookshop of the type that no longer seems to exist in Canada.

The paragraph runs

“A while ago, David Gross, one of the world’s leading experts on string theory, put the odds of seeing some evidence for supersymmetry at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider at 50 percent. Sceptics say they are much less. Only time will tell.”

It is the last sentence that I have been struggling with: the idea of whether time will be able to tell us whether the probability is 50 percent or something much less.

The use of the term “odds” seems to indicate that the authors were thinking of a Bayesian rather the Frequentist model of probability and certainly that would be the only way to compute a prior probability: P(A) = P(A|B}P(B) / P(B|A). However, I still don’t see how to incorporate the time element into the equation.


4 Responses to "Betting on Certainties"

“Skeptics”: in science everyone is a skeptic. Math is a little different because you get to define your terms to make the result come out right!

“Only time will tell”: sloppy writing. Only time will tell if a) Gross was right b) Gross was wrong.

I wonder if I can make more sense than before? Probably not. 50/50 chance of maintaining funding. 50/50 of finding something IF IT’S THERE!? Over what time period will time tell? Once time has gone by how do you determine what the probability was when the prediction was made? Find something in the time period, Gross was right. Find nothing in the time period, Gross was right.

Gross should be working for Al Gore and Dave Suzuki!

This engaging article is a needed corrective, a whirlwind tour of the latest developments in Time period, Strangest Numbers, Short paragraph, and other fields…cwlh make a compelling case for optimism over dread as we face the exhilarating unknown.

Hi arZan, I am not much of a picture person. But over the last 4years have travelled many times to Iran on work. It is a lovely place! Click

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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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