In Tom Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are betting on the flips of a coin. Guildenstern flips his coin, and Rosencrantz calls heads or tails. If he guesses correctly, he keeps the coin and Guildenstern must flip another. If he guesses incorrectly, it is then Rosencrantz's turn to flip.
As the play opens, Rosencrantz has guessed correctly 90 heads in a row. To explain this unusual string of heads Guildenstern reasons that this may be:
"...a spectacular vindication of the principle that each individual coin spun individually...is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each individual time it does."Is Guildenstern's argument sound? Why or why not? And what does this have to do with the behavior of atoms in a gas?
To find the answers to these and other questions, take...
PHYSICS 104: Uncertainty and Chance in Physics
This introductory course, designed for non-science majors, will give an elementary development of the theory of probability, and show the role that it plays in constructing models of physical processes, in particular the atomic theory of gases. Rather than being a broad survey, the course will explore a few topics in depth, and try to give insight into what physicists do and how they think. Although the course assumes a prerequisite of only high school level algebra (any additional mathematics needed will be developed within the course), the course is based on using mathematics in a rigorous and analytical way -- as the language in terms of which physical processes are to be described. This is not a course for the math-phobic!
Last update: Friday, May 19, 2000 at 3:22:17 PM.