Appreciating the Randomness in the World, According to Bradley Efron


Better known as the inventor of the bootstrap.

I have a feeling that statisticians are cynics, because you realise how much of the stuff that you are told is true in the world is actually just that month’s accident that worked out, or that month’s disaster that happened. Appreciating how much randomness there is in everyday experience helps a lot. “So I have this game I play. The first day, which was 25 years ago, I looked for a car licence plate that ended in 000. It took a while to find one. Then I looked for 001. And so on up to 999. Now I am one-and-a-half times around. Some of the numbers take a month to find and some you find the first day. I used to call it “counting to a million” because to do all the thousand numbers you expect to have to look at a million, but then I realised that Palo Alto where I live is a pretty small place and some of the numbers just aren’t represented and I’d have to wait until someone drove in from out of town. Number 92 held me up for ages… But it does give you a good feeling for how random things are.

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