28 Nov 2008

Dr. Moira Gunn interviews Keith Devlin, author of "The Unfinished Game" (22 minutes).

He talks about letters that two mathematicians -- Pascal and Fermat -- exchanged in the 17th century. They pondered over a really simple gambling problem: The unfinished game.

To describe uncertain future outcomes in numbers was Pascals simple answer - and it is the foundation of probability theory. From that followed the modern finance and insurance systems we see everywhere.

The interesting thing is that Fermat quickly came up with a simple solution that today everyone will understand. It's teached in 6th grade. But Pascal, one of the best mathematicians that ever lived, didn't get it.  Putting numbers on future events was a new kind of thinking. Framed like this, it's a powerful lecture about how culture changes thinking over short time spans.

# lastedited 28 Nov 2008
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