Monday, April 28, 2008

21: Monty Hall problem

An interesting problem raised in movie 21:

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

The answer is somewhat counter intuitive: switch gives a 67% chance of winning while stay with original only has 33%. The way to best understand this is to give up your intuition, use the more fundentmental "decision tree" to evaluate the probabilities: (picture linked from wikipedia):

Another interesting probability topic of the movie is card counting in BlackJack...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Free Tibet, wait, where is Tibet?

Okay, have to give it up to this guy... This is, well, simply funny:

It doesn't matter where Tibet is to me...What matters is that the people understand that California is the most powerful state of the world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Joan Chen: Let the Games Go On

From Washingtonpost:

The Olympic torch is in California and is to be carried through San Francisco today. In a resolution criticizing China, Chris Daly, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that demonstrating against the torch relay would "provide the people of San Francisco with a lifetime opportunity to help 1.3 billion Chinese people gain more freedom and rights." To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom did not sign Daly's resolution.

This statement could not be further from reality. For one thing, the Chinese are a proud people. They want freedom and greater rights, but they know they must fight for them from within. They know that no one can grant them freedom and rights from afar. The stigma of Western imperialism and the Opium Wars also remains a strong reminder of the past, and Chinese people do not want their domestic policies to be dictated by outside powers. They also do not want the United States to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Games. The U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow and the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles accomplished nothing. A U.S. boycott of the opening ceremonies in Beijing would be counterproductive for relations between the two countries.

For decades, anti-China human rights groups in Washington have spent millions of dollars denouncing China. To many Chinese, it seems that this lobby is the only voice that's acceptable or newsworthy in the U.S. media and to the U.S. government. But times are changing. We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies. Remember what a little ping-pong game did for Sino-U.S. relations in the 1970s? Let's celebrate the Olympics for what the Games are meant to be -- a bridge for friendship, not a playground for politics.

The writer is an actress and director. She became a U.S. citizen in 1989.

San Francisco Chronicle: Why I will carry the Olympic torch

Many will scoff at this Olympic ideal and I understand why. As a longtime advocate of social justice, I'm familiar with the long list of failings attributed to the People's Republic of China from the days of its founding in 1949, including the simmering tensions in Tibet - especially because I just spent five months in Shanghai as a Fulbright scholar conducting research on the mass exodus that took place at the time of the Communist revolution.

As an American of Chinese descent, I grew up hearing constant critiques of the terrible Communist dictatorship. And because I am an open lesbian, my stay in China felt tenuous because, unlike America, which has anti-gay laws, China doesn't even recognize that we exist. Any of these might be reason enough to run as far from the Olympics as my middle-aged body can carry me.

But my time in China gave me another perspective. I observed firsthand the wide-ranging diversity and openness of viewpoints and cultural expression that now exists among China's 1.4 billion people. I met with hundreds of Chinese for my research and was struck by how outspoken and opinionated they are and, yes, even critical of their government.

Many of my conversations were with elderly survivors of civil war and revolution who have endured immense human suffering, from deprivation and humiliation to torture and death. Almost every one of them had family members or friends who had committed suicide before or during the Cultural Revolution that ended three decades ago. Yet, nearly all told me that they believe China is changing for the better and they are hopeful that Chinese society will continue to become more open.

Read the full article here.