90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Long Odds: The Science Of Probability

What are the odds? Nobody won the perfect March Madness bracket billion. We’ll look at the science and emotions of probability.

Stanford's Josh Huestis, left, and Dwight Powell, right, celebrate as Kansas' Tarik Black (25) watches in the background after in a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. Stanford won 60-57. (AP)

Stanford’s Josh Huestis, left, and Dwight Powell, right, celebrate as Kansas’ Tarik Black (25) watches in the background after in a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. Stanford won 60-57. (AP)

All you had to do to win a billion dollars was pick the winners in college basketball’s March Madness.  Fill in a perfect bracket.  Warren Buffet made a billion-dollar bet that nobody would do it.  And Warren Buffet was right.  We live in a world of probabilities and odds.  Of winning lotteries.  Winning the U.S. Senate.  Finding a downed airliner.  Picking the perfect bracket.  And yet, the reality of probability often eludes us.  It’s often just beyond our intuition.  Our quick assessment.  This hour On Point: from March Madness to Nate Silver’s political picks, to a lost airliner – the science and emotion of odds.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Peter Keating, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Runs the Giant Killers blog. (@PKStatsBlog)

Charles Wheelan, professor in economics and public policy at Dartmouth College. Author of “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data” and “Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.” (@CharlesWheelan)

Colleen Keller, senior analyst with Metron Scientific Solutions.

Eliot Tatelman, owner of Jordan’s Furniture.

From Tom’s Reading List

Five Thirty Eight: Having It Both Ways — “Our forecasts could be wrong in November. In fact, they probably will be wrong — it’s unlikely that Republicans will win exactly six seats. But we think it’s equally likely that our forecast will be biased in either direction. If Democrats retain just one more seat, they’ll hold the Senate. Or Republican gains could grow to seven seats, or quite a bit more.”

Vanity Fair: Nate Silver vs. the “Experts”: the War of Words Over FiveThirtyEight — “Of course, FiveThirtyEight is still in its infancy. Silver and Klein have promised revolutions in the way their companies will cover the news and thus set the bar almost impossibly high. It’s clear that Silver’s many critics don’t think he’ll reach that bar any time soon. Luckily for Silver, he probably thinks most of them are full of it. ”

Slate: Don’t Take Warren Buffett’s Bracket Challenge – “There is a chance, but the chance is so vanishingly small that it’s actually more rational to say there’s no chance. As Yahoo and Quicken note in the fine print of their rules page: ‘odds of winning the Grand Prize are 1:9,223,372,036,854,775,808.’ That’s 1 in 9 quintillion and change. “

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 31, 2015
Some of the hundreds of people who gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday, March 28, 2015, for a rally against legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence stand on the Statehouse's south steps during the 2-hour-long rally. (AP)

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Critics call it anti-gay. Business leaders say bad for the economy. The governor’s not backing down. We’ll dive in.

Mar 31, 2015
Jazz icon Billie Holiday performs in New York City's Club Downbeat in February 1947.  (Library of Congress / Creative Commons)

A meditation on the life and music of Billie Holiday. The lady who sang the blues.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 30, 2015
Sweet Briar College, an all-women's liberal arts college in Virginia, announced in early 2015 that it would unexpectedly close its doors at the end of the school year. (Courtesy Sweet Brian College)

Fareed Zakaria weighs the value of a liberal arts education in our technology-driven time.

 
Mar 30, 2015
A stele and flowers laid in memory of the victims are placed in the area where the Germanwings jetliner crashed in the French Alps, in Le Vernet, France, Friday, March 27, 2015. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain, which killed all 150 people aboard, has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. (AP)

The pilot who crashed his plane in the Alps. What we know now. And what to do about pilots’ psychological health.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: March 27, 2015
Friday, Mar 27, 2015

More on the incessant email debate, plus some goats living their best lives and the sad allure of Manhattan’s shuttered Pommes Frites.

More »
Comment
 
Mobile Payments Offer Convenience If You Keep Your Email Safe
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Thinking about moving your wallet to your phone? You can! And maybe you should? But TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine has a few things to tell you before you do.

More »
1 Comment
 
Using Technology To Get Your Kids Outside
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The latest and greatest — using apps to make natural exploration more fun for your kids.

More »
Comment