Probably Pokemon

Remember that post, called Probably Potter, that I wrote last summer?

Well, even if you don’t remember, I do: I wanted to use a well-known vehicle (Harry Potter) to gather data, crunch the numbers, and explain why our intuitive sense of probability isn’t just off center, but often entirely backwards.

Turns out the probability of my following through with it was an absolute nil.

But now I’m back! And I’ve discovered an even better approach to probability–Pokemon! And this time, I don’t have to crunch the numbers. I just have to explain them.

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Missing Numbers, Compelling Games, and Broken Roads

I’ve always been told that everybody, eventually, will encounter math almost too hard to overcome. For some this happens in high school. Others in college. Others in their doctoral studies. But it happens for everybody.

Hell. It even happened to me. First year of grad school.

But through all this time, even when I got there myself, no one ever told me what to do about it. And sure as hell no one told me how to help my students who hit that well themselves.

Or how to help them when they hit that wall as early as third grade.

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Probably Potter

Do you play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?

I’m a math guy. I understand the nuance of probability and the fact it’s often counter-intuitive. And yet, when I try to explain that to friends, it gets lost in translation.

So I decided I’d do some digging and write about how we often misinterpret probabilistic possibilities (and why do it), and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is the perfect medium to discuss it in a future post. But to make it work, I need your help.

I’m conducting a probability survey and I need players to gather and submit data. The time commitment is yours to decide–you can do it for 30 minutes or a whole week.

On July 30, Wizards Unite’s next event begins: Potter’s Brilliant Calamity. New Brilliant Golden Snitches will be appearing everywhere, and this is what makes it so perfect: There is only one Foundable encounter that appears during this event, and it will have the same rarity / catch rate / recovery chance for all players. This means we can gather a large data set to more easily demonstrate how probability underlies the gameplay.

And so how probability often Confounds us when we try to understand it.

Your job, should you accept it, is simple: Play Wizards Unite and keep track of your spells cast when encountering the Brilliant Golden Snitch. Was it Fair, Good, Great, or Masterful? Did it result in success or failure? Aside from Dawdle Droughts, avoid using Exstimulo Potions–those will change the probability of success, and thereby, negatively impact the data. Once you’ve got your tallies, just submit them using the form below.

Probably Potter: Data Collection

After the event ends, I’ll compile the data, crunch some numbers, and report back with a detailed analysis about why probability sometimes seems so…improbable.

Enter the Matrix (or something like it)

I’m sitting at my computer, staring at a blank screen. There are lessons to plan. And yet I can’t move a muscle. I can’t bring my eyes to look at the textbook I need to reference. I can’t open the templates I’ve made to give myself a starting point. I’m paralyzed.

So I close my computer and go home.

Then, on a whim, I decide to take a bath and read. I’ve been promising myself I’d do this for weeks, looking longingly at the tub and thinking, “I would enjoy that so much,” and yet never doing it. So finally I just did it. And the book I brought was Daring Greatly.

And, oh, does she know my struggles.

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Pokemon Wednesday: This is the Best Clickbait-Inspired Title I Could Think of, and Here’s Why

I have a confession to make: I didn’t study for my algebraic topology midterm because I couldn’t stop playing Pokemon.

The truth is, for the last eighteen years (and I’m turning 27, so that’s two-thirds of my life), Pokemon has been one of the few constants from year to year: Pokemon was there when I played with my friends in Hebrew school; Pokemon was there when my parents my separated and I went back and forth between my parents houses while my mom was at school; and Pokemon was there when I began college myself and needed something, or anything, to pass the time when I wasn’t studying.

And Pokemon was also there when I should’ve been studying last week. In fact, Pokemon–in its many iterations–has been keeping me from homework for a long time.

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Stop. Pause. Press Restart.

Two weeks ago I posted about my summer goals, but since then I’ve managed to make as little progress as could possibly be defined (a rather flowery way of saying I’ve done nothing). Part of me wants to kick back and say I don’t care, because hasn’t it been a stressful year and don’t I deserve a break? But the better part of me feels bored and knows, deep down, I do want to accomplish the things I’ve set out to do.

It’s just getting there that isn’t always easy.

So it’s time I stop for a second, hit the pause button, and take a moment to restart.

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Summertime Stepping Stones

I’m at an odd place in life. I’ve got everything planned out but nothing is certain–in fact, those things most certain are also the most unpredictable. It’s crazy. Sometimes I wonder if the fact I’m a Gemini predisposes me to a life of self-contradictory experiences.

I digress. I need focus, and I’ve learned what helps me focus is having goals, and over the summer, it’s been a longstanding tradition to keep a special set of goals to motivate myself and continue growing into the person I want to become. In fact, this might very well be the last summer when I can make such goals before the full force of adulthood whisks me away and the notion of a free summer ceases to exist. So I must make the most of it.

Let’s begin, shall we?

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Closet Confidential

Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?

I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.

It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.

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The Long and Short of It

I was out with friends watching Interstellar the other night. Afterwards we were standing around, trying to figure out the movie, some of us closer to understanding than others. I was one of these guys, trying to explain multiple dimensions to people who have never had to think outside three (and even had a hard time understanding those).

But I tried to take it further, make it clearer: dimension is not only a spatial measurement. We think of space in three dimensions: we can move forward/backward, left/right, and up/down–three measures, three dimensions. So what, they asked, is four dimensional?

It may seem like this will be a post about science, but hold on. Shortly, it won’t be.

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8 Things You Need to Know About Chanukah

In my last post, I spoke about the uncomfortable reality of being a non-Christian in a country that mistakenly believes its religious identity (which doesn’t exist) is synonymous with its civic identity. I also alluded to a conversation with a friend who assumed Chanukah is a much bigger deal than it is–but instead of making my misconception corrections then, I decided to make them their own post.

So before the candles burn low, here I go.

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