Monday, February 2, 2009

Patterns of Random Sequences

What does randomness really look like? In short bursts, it often looks remarkably patterned. I was reminded of this last night when watching the Super Bowl. Prior to the beginning coin flip, the announcers noted that the NFC had won the last 11 coin flips. Who won this one? The NFC again. Should we conclude that the NFC has a sustainable competitive advantage in winning coin flips? The lesson: don't be too quick to interpret a pattern as meaningful.

If you want a better feel for what random sequences really look like, try generating one of your one using Mike Shor's random sequence applet.

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