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Real world coin tosses aren’t strictly random

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2004

Real world coin tosses aren’t strictly random. Not 50/50, more like 51/49 in favor of the coin face it started on.

Reader comments

dowingbaMar 02, 2004 at 2:06PM

I wonder if you look back at football coin-tosses over the years, will that ratio show up?

stupidsexyflandersMar 02, 2004 at 2:52PM

John Kerrich carried out 10,000 coin tosses while interned in a German prison camp. However, he didn’t record which side the coin started on,

Un. f-ing. believable. I think if I were to undertake such a project, I’d be recording everything from my weight, to the air temperature, to the alignment of the planets. 10,000 flips!

donald tettoMar 02, 2004 at 4:21PM

Talk about a great way to make use of your time. If I was a prisoner of war I bet I would just spend every second whining and self-pitying. John Kerrich has got to be some sort of genius.

Jonas!Mar 02, 2004 at 4:50PM

that doesn’t make it any less “random” to the counterfactualists’ definition. i am not sure it really does anything to the factualists’ either, since the sample size doesn’t seem to be enough. (and is there ever an enough?)

StephenMar 03, 2004 at 12:22AM


stupidsexyflanders: Un. f-ing. believable. I think if I were to undertake such a project, I’d be recording everything from my weight, to the air temperature, to the alignment of the planets. 10,000 flips!

Can you say honestly that you would have thought to record which side you started on (as well as your other suggestions) if you were interned in a German prison camp? I think the majority of prisoners would wallow in self pity (myself included) rather than conduct tedious mathematical experiments.

stupidsexyflandersMar 03, 2004 at 8:23AM

No, I’d be whimpering under the bed the whole time right there along with you. I just found it astounding that for someone with the composure and the scientific tendencies he obviously had, he didn’t think to be just a BIT more rigorous. But that’s enough slagging on the tragic and heroic for today.

ronMar 03, 2004 at 12:11PM

dowingba: In football, they let the coin drop on the ground. This allows the coin to bounce and creates a more random outcome than simply catching it in your hand.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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