Posts from 24th February 2004

Feb 04

Great Words In Science Number One: Martingale

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Great Words In Science Number One: Martingale

In modern probability theory, a martingale is a random process which has an expected value equal to its current value. So if you are betting on someone flipping a coin over and over again and you are given fair 50/50 odds, your winnings constitute a martingale. It’s a totally unpredictable process, but in the long term your winnings are liable to go up as much as they go down. You can expect to finish with what you started with. (The idea of “expectation” has a rigorous definition but it means pretty much what you’d expect. Hey, that’s brilliant.)

In the non-mathematical world, the word refers variously to the gambling strategy where you double your stake if you lose (you can at least see the probability connection here), a bit of horse-riding kit to attach the reins to the saddle girth, and some sort of nautical stay or cleat to fasten some sprit or jib. But according to Rabelais’s Gargantua it refers to a naughty pair of hose which fasten at the back. Rabs refers to “…the martingale fashion of breeches, wherein is a spunghole with a drawbridge for the more easy caguing.”

My OED proffers these facts helplessly for the layman to ponder. If any readers can discover the connection between these meanings then please let the compilers know. You might also tell them they’ve left out “caguing”.

Science Questions Yr Sister Asks You

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Science Questions Yr Sister Asks You (That You Don’t Know The Answer To):

“What does the word ‘turbo’ mean when it’s on a packet of disposable razors?”

Now, I know I was blathering on about this in the pub last night,

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Now, I know I was blathering on about this in the pub last night, but it really does need blogging. The second best thing about “The Ultimate Popstar” on Channel 4 last Sunday was Shakin’ Stevens being in the top 15 best selling singles artists in the UK ever. The best thing about the programme was that, for no discernable reason, over the credits they played 30 seconds of STAY YOUNG by ULTRASOUND, which I had forgotten all about and was more than glad to hear again (for the youngsters out there, ultrasound were THE BEST NEW BAND IN BRITAIN from january to june 1998, until they released their album which was rubbish prog) . Here is an interview with them from the glory days (which I finally found by searching for ultrasound indie tiny).

The programme itself was quite interesting, in comparison to all the other top 100-type shows that C4 knock out, because it was based on REAL HARD FACTS about single sales, rather than whatever hive mind idiocy causes GREASE of all things to be voted best musical ever ever and also they dispensed almost entirely with z-listers “what were we on”ing and stuck with the artists involved (oh, and abba’s rhythm section), a handful of other songwriters/producers (ashford and simpson, dionne warwick, JELLYBEAN) and a few decent hacks (morley, patterson, mick wall for the rockier stuff). Strangely, it is the only programme that was on on Sunday that has no further information on the channel 4 website…