# Armstrong fast on his bike, but not great at probability theory.

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Andrew Albright, Jun 30, 2003.

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1. ### Stewart Fleming Guest

Mark Lee wrote:
> "Dick Durbin" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:[email protected]...
>
>>[email protected] (TritonRider) wrote in message
>
> news:<[email protected]>...
>
>>> Missionary work to enlighten the heathen by internet? "1,2,3, lots" I
>>
> got
>
>>>skoolin in ciphers.
>>
>>Or, as we teach in NASCAR country, "One, two, Earnhardt...."
>>
>>Dick Durbin
>
>
> 1,2, many

Computer Science: zero, one, many. I am interested in this missionary position also.

2. ### Ronaldo Jeremia Guest

[email protected] (K. J. Papai) wrote in message
news:<[email protected]>...
> [email protected] (Andrew Albright) wrote in message
> news:<[email protected]>...
> > So everyone knows that Lance Armstrong is trying to win his 5th Tour of France in a row.
> >
> > In a recent article in the Inqy, Armstrong said, "The mathematics get tricky with any streak.
> > The odds will tell you the chances decrease the more you go along". [The author of the article,
> > Bob Ford, compounds the error with his analysis of Armstrong as being a person who can 'crunch
> > numbers with anyone'].
>
> Albright, you're being schooled big time. Since when does racing the Tour come down to
> pure chance?

It's not necessary for it to come down to 'pure chance.' Probability theory can still be applied.

>
> > Most of you reading this probably aren't all that smart, so let's pretend that we aren't talking
> > about Tour of France wins, but rather flipping a coin and trying to get a streak of 'heads'
> > going. The chance of flipping a coin four times in a row and getting heads all four times is 1
> > in 16, less than 10%; the chance of getting 5 heads in a row is 1 in 32.
> >
> Duhh... Most people with even half a brain know this by the time they're 17 years old.

How is it that you know it?

-RJ

3. ### David Ryan Guest

Dick Durbin wrote:
>
> Boyd Speerschneider <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:<[email protected]>...
> > > Or, as we teach in NASCAR country, "One, two, Earnhardt...."
> > >
> > > Dick Durbin
> >
> > Who?
>
> Kinda like Eddy Merckx on four wheels....except he's dead.

Just about the same age too - which should tell you something.

4. ### John Kaufmann Guest

And just to muddy the waters some more, I'll point out for you armchair mathematicians there is a
well-developed probability theory, called conditional probability, for events where the odds do
depend on what's happened in the past, unlike rolling dice or flipping coins. The dependence on the
past is called "correlation". For example, if the weather is hot today, there is more than a 50%
chance it's going to be hot tomorrow. Personally I think it's too simplistic to compare winning the
TdF with coin flips. So maybe Armstrong really deserves more credit than we're giving him...?

;-)

5. ### Mhf Guest

yes but what if the coin gets a flat mid flip?

"Andrew Albright" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> So everyone knows that Lance Armstrong is trying to win his 5th Tour of France in a row.
>
> In a recent article in the Inqy, Armstrong said, "The mathematics get tricky with any streak. The
> odds will tell you the chances decrease the more you go along". [The author of the article, Bob
> Ford, compounds the error with his analysis of Armstrong as being a person who can 'crunch numbers
> with anyone'].
>
> Most of you reading this probably aren't all that smart, so let's pretend that we aren't talking
> about Tour of France wins, but rather flipping a coin and trying to get a streak of 'heads' going.
> The chance of flipping a coin four times in a row and getting heads all four times is 1 in 16,
> less than 10%; the chance of getting 5 heads in a row is 1 in 32.
>
> However, if someone has flipped a coin and already has flipped four heads in a row, the chance of
> getting a head when he flips the coin the fifth time is 1 in 2.
>
> It is basic probability theory that each test (flip of the coin) is indepedent of previous tests.
>
> Now I know that this is probably over the heads of most of you, but I thought that I would try to
> educate you all anyway.

6. ### Lindsay Guest

On 30 Jun 2003 19:38:38 -0700, [email protected] (Andrew Albright) wrote:

>So everyone knows that Lance Armstrong is trying to win his 5th Tour of France in a row.
>
>In a recent article in the Inqy, Armstrong said, "The mathematics get tricky with any streak. The
>odds will tell you the chances decrease the more you go along". [The author of the article, Bob
>Ford, compounds the error with his analysis of Armstrong as being a person who can 'crunch numbers
>with anyone'].
>
>Most of you reading this probably aren't all that smart, so let's pretend that we aren't talking
>about Tour of France wins, but rather flipping a coin and trying to get a streak of 'heads' going.

The simple fact you compare a coin toss to winning the TdF five years in a row proves beyond a
shadow of a doubt you are far dumber than the few you try to insult here.

Coin toss. What a freakin' dumb ass. ;-)

Lindsay
----------------------------
"One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the
difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's

P.J. O'Rourke

7. ### Wannagofast Guest

The point is Armstrong chances are what they are for this year and given that he's won or lost in
the past, they have no bearing on his chances for this year, whether it's the dynamics of him vs.
the competition or as simple as the variables in a coin toss. That is, based on all of the comments
it seems like there is an overwhelming opinion that each year's race is an independent event,
therefore the coin toss metaphor is relevant.

Hope that helps.

"Boyd Speerschneider" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> [email protected] (Andrew Albright) wrote in
> news:[email protected]:
>
> > So everyone knows that Lance Armstrong is trying to win his 5th Tour of France in a row.
> >
> > In a recent article in the Inqy, Armstrong said, "The mathematics get tricky with any streak.
> > The odds will tell you the chances decrease the more you go along". [The author of the article,
> > Bob Ford, compounds the error with his analysis of Armstrong as being a person who can 'crunch
> > numbers with anyone'].
> >
> > Most of you reading this probably aren't all that smart, so let's pretend that we aren't talking
> > about Tour of France wins, but rather flipping a coin and trying to get a streak of 'heads'
> > going. The chance of flipping a coin four times in a row and getting heads all four times is 1
> > in 16, less than 10%; the chance of getting 5 heads in a row is 1 in 32.
> >
> > However, if someone has flipped a coin and already has flipped four heads in a row, the chance
> > of getting a head when he flips the coin the fifth time is 1 in 2.
> >
> > It is basic probability theory that each test (flip of the coin) is indepedent of previous
> > tests.
> >
> > Now I know that this is probably over the heads of most of you, but I thought that I would try
> > to educate you all anyway.
>
> Andrew, Winning the tour is not as cut and dry as flipping a coin. When flipping a coin the odds
> stay the same. When riding the tour the opposing teams get reshuffled every year, younger guys get
> stronger and faster, and Armstrong doesn't get any younger. So, relative to last year, what he
> said is a true statement. This also holds true when you take into account the odds of the streak
> continuing given past history. This is probably more along the lines of what LA was referring to;
> as opposed to the literal probablity of himself actually acheiving the streak.
>
> ie.,
>
> 2 TDFs in a row... Bobet, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain, Lemond, Armstrong, Hinault, and
> maybe more back in the day. 3 TDFs in a row... Bobet, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain, Lemond,
> Armstrong 4 TDFs in a row... Anquetil, Merxkx, Indurain, Armstrong 5 TDFs in a row... Indurain
>
> In this case the odds go from 7/8+ to 4/7 to 1/4.
>
> Since LA has a strong respect for the history of the tour, I think he was probably just trying
> to point out that its very hard to win five in row. So hard, in fact, that only one man has done
> it so far.
>
> - Boyd S. minor in mathematics, class of 1998

8. ### Benjamin Weiner Guest

K. J. Papai <[email protected]> wrote:
> "Dashi Toshii" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> > "Tom Schulenburg" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> > > "Andrew Albright" <[email protected]> wrote in message

> > Yes you are correct, Albright (oxymoron) is wrong.

> What are the odds of A. V. AlBright accepting defeat here?

I was gonna post something with a subject like

"Albright fast with his fingers, but not great at trolling theory"

to suggest that though AVA has been the Patron of trolling rbr for the last four years, he is
clearly losing his dominance with this lame ass attempt at a troll, which surely nobody would bother
taking seriously.

But I see I was wrong. I guess that's why they run bicycle races - the outcome is never guaranteed.

9. ### Dick Durbin Guest

David Ryan <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> Dick Durbin wrote:
> >
> > Boyd Speerschneider <[email protected]> wrote in message
> > news:<[email protected]>...
> > > > Or, as we teach in NASCAR country, "One, two, Earnhardt...."
> > > >
> > > > Dick Durbin
> > >
> > > Who?
> >
> > Kinda like Eddy Merckx on four wheels....except he's dead.
>
> Just about the same age too - which should tell you something.

And that is....

10. ### Carl Sundquist Guest

"Dick Durbin" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> > >
> > > Kinda like Eddy Merckx on four wheels....except he's dead.
> >
> > Just about the same age too - which should tell you something.
>
> And that is....

...if Eddy had lost control of his bike and smashed into a wall at top speed people would be driving
around the South of Belgium with little stickers on their cars saying, 'We won't forget" showing a
tiny Molteni jersey; or a picture of a little pseudo Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) kneeling and
praying to a burnt orange Eddy Merckx bike (Super Record gruppo, of course)?

11. ### Mark Janeba Guest

wannagofast wrote:
> The point is Armstrong chances are what they are for this year and given that he's won or lost in
> the past, they have no bearing on his chances for this year,

Really? You think the competition would treat him the same if he hadn't won the last four? How
do you think "dark horse" winners happen? Aren't we all familiar with the phrase "marked by
the peloton"?

> whether it's the dynamics of him vs. the competition or as simple as the variables in a coin toss.
> That is, based on all of the comments it seems like there is an overwhelming opinion that each
> year's race is an independent event, therefore the coin toss metaphor is relevant.

Nope, sorry. The coin doesn't remember the outcome of its last toss (nor does the table it lands
on). The peloton *does* remember the outcome of LA's last four tours, so does he. It *does* make a
difference in ways that matter. To the extent that probability factors into such events at all,
consecutive wins in the tour are *not* independent events.

12. ### David Ryan Guest

Carl Sundquist wrote:
>
> "Dick Durbin" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> > > >
> > > > Kinda like Eddy Merckx on four wheels....except he's dead.
> > >
> > > Just about the same age too - which should tell you something.
> >
> > And that is....
>
> ...if Eddy had lost control of his bike and smashed into a wall at top speed people would be
> driving around the South of Belgium with little stickers on their cars saying, 'We won't forget"
> showing a tiny Molteni jersey; or a picture of a little pseudo Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes)
> kneeling and praying to a burnt orange Eddy Merckx bike (Super Record gruppo, of course)?

Or that if it's something that can be done by someone of Eddy Merckx' age, it ain't anything like
world-class bike racing. Closer to bridge.