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Mathematics - Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes | The Pleasures of Probability

The Pleasures of Probability

Isaac, Richard

1995, XV, 244 p.

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  • About this textbook

The ideas of probability are all around us. Lotteries, casino gambling, the al­ most non-stop polling which seems to mold public policy more and more­ these are a few of the areas where principles of probability impinge in a direct way on the lives and fortunes of the general public. At a more re­ moved level there is modern science which uses probability and its offshoots like statistics and the theory of random processes to build mathematical descriptions of the real world. In fact, twentieth-century physics, in embrac­ ing quantum mechanics, has a world view that is at its core probabilistic in nature, contrary to the deterministic one of classical physics. In addition to all this muscular evidence of the importance of probability ideas it should also be said that probability can be lots of fun. It is a subject where you can start thinking about amusing, interesting, and often difficult problems with very little mathematical background. In this book, I wanted to introduce a reader with at least a fairly decent mathematical background in elementary algebra to this world of probabil­ ity, to the way of thinking typical of probability, and the kinds of problems to which probability can be applied. I have used examples from a wide variety of fields to motivate the discussion of concepts.

Content Level » Lower undergraduate

Keywords » Brownian motion - Law of large numbers - Markov chain - Poisson distribution - Radiologieinformationssystem - Random variable - statistics

Related subjects » Geology - Life Sciences, Medicine & Health - Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes - Theoretical, Mathematical & Computational Physics - Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

Table of contents 

1 Cars, Goats, and Sample Spaces.- 1.1 Getting your goat.- 1.2 Nutshell history and philosophy lesson.- 1.3 Let those dice roll. Sample spaces.- 1.4 Discrete sample spaces. Probability distributions and spaces.- 1.5 The car-goat problem solved.- 1.6 Exercises for Chapter 1.- 2 How to Count: Birthdays and Lotteries.- 2.1 Counting your birthdays.- 2.2 Following your dreams in Lottoland.- 2.3 Exercises for Chapter 2.- 3 Conditional Probability: From Kings to Prisoners.- 3.1 Some probability rules. Conditional Probability.- 3.2 Does the king have a sister?.- 3.3 The prisoner’s dilemma.- 3.4 All about urns.- 3.5 Exercises for Chapter 3.- 4. The Formula of Thomas Bayes and Other Matters.- 4.1 On blood tests and Bayes’s formula.- 4.2 An urn problem.- 4.3 Laplace’s law of succession.- 4.4 Subjective probability.- 4.5 Questions of paternity.- 4.6 Exercises for Chapter 4.- 5 The Idea of Independence, with Applications.- 5.1 Independence of events.- 5.2 Waiting for the first head to show.- 5.3 On the likelihood of alien life.- 5.4 The monkey at the typewriter.- 5.5 Rare events do occur.- 5.6 Rare versus extraordinary events.- 5.7 Exercises for Chapter 5.- 6 A Little Bit About Games.- 6.1 The problem of points.- 6.2 Craps.- 6.3 Roulette.- 6.4 What are the odds?.- 6.5 Exercises for Chapter 6.- 7 Random Variables, Expectations, and More About Games.- 7.1 Random variables.- 7.2 The binomial random variable.- 7.3 The game of chuck-a-luck and de Méré’s problem of dice.- 7.4 The expectation of a random variable.- 7.5 Fair and unfair games.- 7.6 Gambling systems.- 7.7 Administering a blood test.- 7.8 Exercises for Chapter 7.- 8 Baseball Cards, The Law of Large Numbers, and Bad News for Gamblers.- 8.1 The coupon collector’s problem.- 8.2 Indicator variables and the expectation of a binomial variable.- 8.3 Independent random variables.- 8.4 The coupon collector’s problem solved.- 8.5 The Law of Large Numbers.- 8.6 The Law of Large Numbers and gambling.- 8.7 A gambler’s fallacy.- 8.8 The variance of a random variable.- 8.8.1 Appendix.- 8.8.2 The variance of the sum of independent random variables.- 8.8.3 The variance ofSn/n.- 8.9 Exercises for Chapter 8.- 9 From Traffic to Chocolate Chip Cookies with the Poisson Distribution.- 9.1 A traffic problem.- 9.2 The Poisson as an approximation to the binomial.- 9.3 Applications of the Poisson distribution.- 9.4 The Poisson process.- 9.5 Exercises for Chapter 9.- 10 The Desperate Case of the Gambler’s Ruin.- 10.1 Let’s go for a random walk.- 10.2 The gambler’s ruin problem.- 10.3 Bold play or timid play?.- 10.4 Exercises for Chapter 10.- 11 Breaking Sticks, Tossing Needles, and More: Probability on Continuous Sample Spaces.- 11.1 Choosing a number at random from an interval.- 11.2 Bus stop.- 11.3 The expectation of a continuous random variable.- 11.4 Normal numbers.- 11.5 Bertrand’s paradox.- 11.6 When do we have a triangle?.- 11.7 Buffon’s needle problem.- 11.8 Exercises for Chapter 11.- 12 Normal Distributions, and Order from Diversity via the Central Limit Theorem.- 12.1 Making sense of some data.- 12.2 The normal distributions.- 12.3 Some pleasant properties of normal distributions.- 12.4 The Central Limit Theorem.- 12.5 How many heads did you get?.- 12.6 Why so many quantities may be approximately normal.- 12.7 Exercises for Chapter 12.- 13 Random Numbers: What They Are and How to Use Them.- 13.1 What are random numbers?.- 13.2 When are digits random? Statistical randomness.- 13.3 Pseudo-random numbers.- 13.4 Random sequences arising from decimal expansions.- 13.5 The use of random numbers.- 13.6 The 1970 draft lottery.- 13.7 Exercises for Chapter 13.- 14 Computers and Probability.- 14.1 A little bit about computers.- 14.2 Frequency of zeros in a random sequence.- 14.3 Simulation of tossing a coin.- 14.4 Simulation of rolling a pair of dice.- 14.5 Simulation of the Buffon needle tosses.- 14.6 Monte Carlo estimate of ? using bombardment of a circle.- 14.7 Monte Carlo estimate for the broken stick problem.- 14.8 Monte Carlo estimate of a binomial probability.- 14.9 Monte Carlo estimate of the probability of winning at craps.- 14.10 Monte Carlo estimate of the gambler’s ruin probability.- 14.11 Constructing approximately normal random variables.- 14.12 Exercises for Chapter 14.- 15 Statistics: Applying Probability to Make Decisions.- 15.1 What statistics does.- 15.2 Lying with statistics?.- 15.3 Deciding between two probabilities.- 15.4 More complicated decisions.- 15.5 How many fish in the lake, and other problems of estimation.- 15.6 Polls and confidence intervals.- 15.7 Random sampling.- 15.8 Some concluding remarks.- 15.9 Exercises for Chapter 15.- 16 Roaming the Number Line with a Markov Chain: Dependence.- 16.1 A picnic in Alphaville?.- 16.2 One-dimensional random walks.- 16.3 The probability of ever returning “home”.- 16.4 About the gambler recouping her losses.- 16.5 The dying out of family names.- 16.6 The number of parties waiting for a taxi.- 16.7 Stationary distributions.- 16.8 Applications to genetics.- 16.9 Exercises for Chapter 16.- 17 The Brownian Motion, and Other Processes in Continuous Time.- 17.1 Processes in continuous time.- 17.2 A few computations for the Poisson process.- 17.3 The Brownian motion process.- 17.4 A few computations for Brownian motion.- 17.5 Brownian motion as a limit of random walks.- 17.6 Exercises for Chapter 17.- Answers to Exercises.

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