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Is It Chance?

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At what does probability become chance? Or how about the reverse? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, chance is defined as “something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause.” In other words, chance cannot be altered, it happens and is what it is. On the other hand, probability is later defined as “the quality or state of being supported by evidence strong enough to establish presumption but not proof.” Probability is then scientifically supported, and chance is not.

To figure out the probability of winning a rock paper scissors game, an experiment was conducted that included four different trials, with each contained 40 rounds. In the first trial, person A won 10 times, person B 9, and there was a tie for 21 of the rounds. The rest of the three trials has person A winning 13, 9, and then 15. Person B finished with 12, 12, and 8. The ties concluded with 15, 19, and 17. After all of this data was collected and compiled together, the results came together as person A won 25% of the time, person B winning 22.5% of the time, and a tie 52.5% of the time. From these results, it is nearly a 50/50 chance of someone winning versus a tie. There have been some studies that came out that show ways to improve the chance of winning one of these games. Seeing as the outcome can be altered, this means that the game of rock paper scissors is not chance, but probability.

Another experiment was conducted where a coin was flipped 40 times. The results were recorded when the coin hit heads and when it hit tails. This experiment was also conducted four times. In Trial one, the coin landed on heads 22 times and tails 18 times. The second trial resulted in 25 heads, and 15 tails, with the third trial having 17 heads and 23 trails. The final trial concluded in a tie between the two: 20 heads, and 20 tails. This last trial is what is usually expected when you flip a coin. Seeing as there are only two sides, it is assumed that there will also be a 50/50 chance it will land on either side. With this experiment however, the statement was not completely supported as the results varied. As more flips are taken, the probability comes closer to the even 50/50.

The last experiment that was attempted was rolling a die and counting how many times each of the sides were landed upon out of 40 rolls. Like all the other experiments, this one also had four trials. The results are pictured in the graph on the side, with the percentages averaging 20% for 1’s, 25% for 2’s, 20% for 3’s, 12.5% for 4’s, 7.5% for 5’s, and 15% for the 6’s.

Probability is not just relevant in games of rock paper scissors but can show how certain things happen within sports. When asked, Matthew Smith, a sophomore and avid hockey player here at Liberty High School, explained how probability of winning a game can be changed by things like skill. “Lots of things can change the game. The way someone plays, or their skill level can directly affect the ending of the game.” This supports the idea that winning a game is more probability than chance, since it’s under the players control. Along with this, a team’s skill set stops a game from being chance, and more something you can predict.

With all the experiments tested and information from a hockey player, the difference between chance and probability is displayed, and shows how there is a very fine line shared by the two. Next time you play a board game, or watch a sporting event, ask yourself “is it chance?”

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