Monday, April 21, 2008

Monty Hall book

Jason Rosenhouse has just put online the first draft of the first chapter of his upcoming book on the Monty Hall Problem! This is a famous probability problem that is notorious for tripping up a lot of smart people (even mathematicians) and stirring quite a bit of controversy. I explained the puzzle myself some months ago, but Rosenhouse does it much better.

I thought the history of the problem was especially interesting. I've known about the problem itself for a long time, but I never knew about the story about Marilyn vos Savant answering the problem in Parade. It's rather interesting to see how a simple math problem causes such a furor. Rosenhouse suggests that people don't recognize it as math, and therefore forget to give their socially programmed "Oh, I'm no good at math." response.

Other puzzles that tend to provoke a lot of arguments? There's the problem where you fill a container (usually an "urn") with an infinite number of balls. There's also one where you're asked if 3.99999... is equal to 4. There's also a number of problems where you're asked to resolve a paradox of some sort. Oh, and plenty of other probability problems!


Anonymous said...

Ooh, I didn't know he was writing a book!

Somewhere recently I read that a mathematician had found that a bunch of psychological studies involving subjects choosing one of several options all suffered from a false assumption based on the Monty Hall problem. It's the kind of thing that's absolutely obvious UNTIL you think about it and realize you're wrong.

miller said...

Yeah, funny, I didn't even realize he was a mathematician. All this time, I thought EvolutionBlog was written by a biologist!

I heard that story too. I might as well link it: here