No. 4 son (age 16) just reminded me that a couple years ago I promised a LOT more columns designed to improve America's math skills. Since then, I'm pretty sure I've written several articles with significant math-related content. No. 4 says they just contained numbered lists. Proving that I've clearly over-delivered on my promise!
I was planning to make this week's column extremely math-centric, by writing about the upcoming anniversary of the passing of the English mathematician Thomas Bayes, who died in 1761, which, if my mathematical calculations are correct, was a really long time ago.
Bayes is famous for a theorem of probability called, oddly, Bayes' Theorem. Actually, he didn't become famous for it until after he'd departed this earthly plane; in 1763, a paper he'd written about the theorem was presented to The Royal Society of London, which then published it in 1764. But Bayes' Theorem really skyrocketed into the public eye in early 1765, when it was lampooned on “60 Minutes” by Andy Rooney.
The problem with writing an entire column about Bayes' Theorem is that you'd have to wade through stuff that very few besides me understand, like P(F|E) = P(E|F)P(F) @ EI|EI|O. It would also have to include a real-life application of the theorem, such as, what is the statistical probability that it will rain on any of the matches in this summer's World Cup soccer tournament? And if it does, what is the statistical probability that there will be an impromptu wet t-shirt contest among the fans?
Better then, perhaps, not to dwell too much on Thomas Bayes, although you gotta hand it to him, he's remembered in a lot of ways besides his theorem. For instance, there's a group called the International Society for Bayesian Analysis, or ISBA (saying this acronym aloud makes you sound a bit like Ebeneezer Scrooge, if you ham it up and really emphasize the second syllable. Try it!)