Statistical Magicians (in Significance Magazine)


Up on stage, the magician is preparing for her next big trick. She whips out a deck of cards and finds an unsuspecting member of the audience. “Pick a card, any card”, she says. The audience member is instructed not to reveal the chosen card, instead placing it face down back in the pack. But of course she already knows which card has been picked and, as if by magic, that card appears.

How is this possible? ... No matter how good the magician, no matter how much she practises, is it really possible that everything goes perfectly for her every single time? ... The answer is a statistical concept called “survivorship bias”.

Read more at Significance Magazine, February 2015, p.6.

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