Who goes first? ATOMs #013-1

Robby got the game of Parcheesi for Christmas, and he loves it. We all do.

When it’s time to play, how do you decide which person will be first?

With a simple roll of the dice. Whoever rolls the highest will go first–it’s a fair way to decide.

Using dice is an example of a randomized decision strategy. It’s an example of transforming uncertainty (the chance outcome of the dice) into decisive action.

You don’t need to master the concepts of game theory or uniform probability distributions to make decisions.

Nor do you need to build the screwdriver or understand metallurgy to use the tool.

You do, however, need to apply them.

Analytical tools are like dice–they help us make decisions.

Here are three ways to find out more about ATOMs (analytical tools of mathematics and statistics):

1. Go the ATOMs index.

2. Study nuclear physics.

3. Read the stuff in italics below.

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Next: Vision and Uncertainty

How do we find our way then, when we are exploring the unknown, blazing a trail into uncharted territory? How do we apply elementary statistical principles to transform uncertainty into decisive action? What is to prevent us from making a preposterous application of ATOMs when we deal with very complex situations, those in which our intuition fails?

These questions are not much different from those faced by Chuck Yeager before he ever broke the sound barrier or Neil Armstrong as he took that first step on the moon. Neither of these men, nor anyone around them–with hundreds or thousands of highly educated, very scientific people on these teams–knew what to expect. Or did they…?

ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, you can read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

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