Profile

Cover photo
Jason Swanson
Works at University of Central Florida
Attended University of Washington
68 followers|37,020 views
AboutPostsPhotosYouTube

Stream

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
This article is misguided. It is trying to draw a distinction between two kinds of uncertainty. On the one hand, there is uncertainty caused by mechanisms such as dice or spinners. On the other hand, there is uncertainty caused by the unobserved activity of neurons in the brain. The article would like to reserve the word "luck" for situations involving only the first type.

Okay, fine. So there is a semantic distinction between these two types of uncertainty. Perhaps there is even an important philosophical distinction. But when it comes to making decisions in the middle of a game, there is no distinction at all. To make decisions in the face of uncertainty, we must know how to measure it and how to think about it. This is what probability theory is for. From the point of view of probability theory, it doesn't matter if it's dice or neurons, it's all the same. In fact, the article concedes this point when it implicitly cites the law of large numbers:

"In brief encounters, variability [of human performance] will have a greater effect than it will in longer stretches of play, so a single event will be a poorer measure of the competitors’ skill. By contrast, when players or teams compete in a long series of games, as in a chess tournament or a basketball season, it makes sense to see skill as the primary factor in success."

Both types of uncertainty share the same fundamental status. A serious study of poker would force anyone to acknowledge this. A strategic analysis of a decision at the poker table is done with probability. It must use probabilities that are calculated from the cards. And it must also use probabilities that are estimated from reading the opponent. From a logical and mathematical point of view, both kinds of probabilities are treated in exactly the same manner.

A chess player could adopt a similar attitude. There is uncertainty is his opponents' choice of moves. There is uncertainty in his own performance, which varies according to the situation. In the face of this uncertainty, he could strive to find the move that maximizes his current probability of winning. This is different from trying to find the best move in the current position, as though one were solving a puzzle or exercise. For example, the grandmasters may say that a certain opening is unsound. But if you're not playing grandmasters, then maybe that doesn't matter. If the opening gives you a statistical edge against your current circle of opponents, then it's a good one.

By telling people there is no "luck" in chess, we are discouraging players from adopting this kind of attitude. We are instead promoting the myth that there is one "best" move in every position and your job is to find it. That kind of thinking is fine for puzzles and exercises. But in a game, there are three things to consider: the position, the opponent, and yourself. You have perfect information about only one of them.
We often confuse the ups and downs of human performance in games with luck.
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
[Editor's note: Every week, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, ...
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
"The No. 3-ranked player in the world, Fabiano Caruana, has expressed his intention to change from playing for the Italian Chess Federation to the US Chess Federation (USCF). ... Caruana's move means that the US will now have three players in the world's top ten. ... Caruana will join Hikaru Nakamura, world No. 4 and the current US Chess Champion, and Wesley So, world No. 7, who recently switched his federation to the US from the Philippines. The US has never had three players in the modern era's top ten."
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
The link below is to a chapter from the upcoming book, "Art in the Life of Mathematicians". The linked chapter is written by Fields Medalist, Timothy Gowers, and is titled, "Music-A Life Not Chosen". It's a long, 30-page read. Here, I just want to quote three small pieces, the first few sentences, a passage on sightreading, and a nice quote from near the end.

QUOTE 1:
"I am a mathematician and not a musician. That is just a straightforward fact. However, it is a fact that I have never fully accepted: I am not a musician, but I nevertheless identify myself with that segment of the human race for which music is a way of life rather than just a form of entertainment. In this essay, I shall try to explain why."

QUOTE 2:
(regarding sightreading on the piano) "I found that while my reading of Bach was noticeably better than it had once been, if I was given, say, a piano accompaniment to a violin piece by Mozart, my reading of it was as bad as ever. That led me to the theory (for which I claim no originality) that ability to sightread on the piano is not merely an ability to translate the symbols on the page very rapidly into appropriate physical movements, but something far more active: a kind of half improvisation where you have strong expectations about what you are going to do next and use the music to make minor adjustments as you go along."

QUOTE 3:
"In his Mathematician’s Apology, Hardy writes the following depressing words...

"'If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that he would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields.'

"... I incline to a view that is close to the exact opposite of Hardy’s: if somebody is a real mathematician, then there is a good chance that they will be good at many other things as well, and they should take those other things seriously."
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
It looks like the white knight makes it into the center more often than the black knight. Not surprising, I suppose, but pretty interesting to see.
There are just 32 pieces on a chessboard, but the number of patterns in which those pieces can move in the course of an individual game are astronomical. Still, as these maps show, despite all those different possibilities, each piece has a pretty clear pattern behind it.
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
In Saving Mr. Banks, the movie about the making of Mary Poppins, the composer of the Mary Poppins songs, Richard Sherman, was played by Jason Schwartzman. The link is to an interview with Schwartzman, and here is an excerpt:

"I went and got a Mary Poppins songbook—I just ordered it—and when you look at it you realize it says 'For piano, guitar, vocals.' It’s sort of what a novelization is to a movie, someone has listened to the final product of Mary Poppins and kind of generalized it so that anybody can play it. But I wanted to play the songs in the way that Richard would have in the room because those songs have strings and all that stuff but when Richard’s demonstrating a song, it’s a different style of playing.

"So, he gave me all of his early demos from 1959-1960 where he’s literally saying, 'Jolly Holiday Take 1.' It’s just him with one microphone and his brother. ... I gave those demos to my piano teacher—he’s this guy Elmo Peeler, he’s the greatest. He sat down for days and days and days and listened to some very crude recordings—at times—and transcribed all of the music as it would’ve been played in 1961 as opposed to ’66 or ’65. I learned all the songs in that style, so they’re a bit more raw and they’re voiced differently. My feeling was, if Tom Hanks is going to learn how to talk like Walt Disney, this is Richard’s equivalent of talking. So I have to talk like Richard and I’m gonna do the accent, which in this case is the way he plays piano and that’s what I focused on the most."
Jason Schwartzman Talks SAVING MR. BANKS, Learning to Play MARY POPPINS Songs, and What He Learned Musically from the Composer He Plays.
1
Add a comment...
Have them in circles
68 people
Christopher Huff's profile photo
Danish Rehman's profile photo
The Daily Show's profile photo
BO KANG's profile photo
Veena Bhansali's profile photo
Mathew Baxter's profile photo
Scott McKinley's profile photo
Rochan Mehta's profile photo
Louis Fan's profile photo

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
"Please answer within 20 seconds." (First Grade Admissions Test)
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
Firebrand founder Greg Savage posted this no-holds-barred post about the importance of showing up on time that we felt we just had to share. Greg has not only founded four incredibly successful staffing businesses, but is a very compelling and highly-sought after international keynote speaker.
1
1
Steve Mays's profile photo
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
“Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on tel...
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
Language may be NSFW.
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
 
Question/Puzzle about Trivia Crack

In the popular game, "Trivia Crack", players answer multiple-choice questions. Each question has four possible responses. If you are stuck, you may use a "Power-Up" to help you. Two of the available Power-Ups are "Bomb" and "Second Chance".

If you use the Bomb, then the game drops two of the incorrect choices. This leaves you to choose from only two possible responses.

If you use Second Chance, then the game allows you to guess a second time if your first guess is incorrect.

Here is the question: Under what circumstances is it better to use the Bomb than to use Second Chance?
1
Add a comment...

Jason Swanson

Shared publicly  - 
1
Add a comment...
People
Have them in circles
68 people
Christopher Huff's profile photo
Danish Rehman's profile photo
The Daily Show's profile photo
BO KANG's profile photo
Veena Bhansali's profile photo
Mathew Baxter's profile photo
Scott McKinley's profile photo
Rochan Mehta's profile photo
Louis Fan's profile photo
Education
  • University of Washington
    PhD in Mathematics
Work
Occupation
Mathematician
Employment
  • University of Central Florida
    Prof. of Mathematics, 2007 - present
  • University of Wisconsin Press
    VIGRE Van Vleck Assistant Professor, 2004 - 2007