In our day-to-day life, we come across some string of words like:
1. Possibly, it will rain today
2. There is a high chance of getting the job this year
3. The odds are 3:2 in favour of getting the contract applied for.
All such statements with words like probably, high chance, odd, likelihood are based upon certain facts and try to quantify the random phenomena of life. In general, whenever we consider the chances of happening of an event, we are actually implementing the mathematical concept of probability.
Probability has something to do with a chance. It is the study of things that might happen or might not. We use it most of the time, usually without thinking of it. Everything from the weather forecasting to our chance of studying at world top University is a probability.
There are numerous applications of probability in real life:
Weather forecasting: Before planning for an outing or a picnic, we always check the weather forecast. Suppose it says that there is a 70% chance that rain may occur. Do you ever wonder from where this 70% come from? Meteorologists use a specific tool and technique to predict the weather forecast. They look at all the other historical database of the days, which have similar characteristics of temperature, humidity, and pressure, etc. And determine that on 70 out of 100 similar days in the past, it had rained.
Medical Decisions – When a patient is advised to undergo surgery, they often want to know the success rate of the operation which is nothing but a probability rate. Based on the same the patient takes a decision whether or not to go ahead with the same.
Politics: Many politics analysts use the tactics of probability to predict the outcome of the election’s results. For example, they may predict a certain political party to come into power; based on the results of exit polls.
Sports: To decide what are the chances of winning or losing of a particular team based on their previous record. Similarly, the probability is put to use in order to devise the sports strategy also. For instance, by tracking the record of a batsman in cricket, it is decided at what place or rank, he should play.
Typing on Smart Devices: When we type, the software constantly keeps suggesting words. It does this using probability- depending on which word is now commonly used.
Insurance Policies: When we get anything insured, we study which insurance policy would be appropriate depending on our usage of the thing and/or what are the chances of damage and what kind of recovery is possible.
Card Games: Traditional card game of skills ‘rummy’ uses the concept of probability, along with those of permutations and combinations. Players keep on calculating their chances of getting a particular card they require and in the process learn these concepts without making conscious efforts.
Flipping a Coin or Dice: Flipping a coin is one of the most important events before the start of the match. There is no surety, either head will come or not. Both head and tail have 1 out of 2, i.e., 50% chances to occur. Hence, the probability of getting the desired outcome is 0.5. Similarly, while playing with dice, there are 1 out of 6 chances, that the required number will land.
Video Games and Board Games: On the same lines, these games to propel the player to think in terms of probability.
Traffic Signals: Concepts of Probability is used to control and observe the flow of traffic on the highways. Also, people may apply the concept of probability to know about waiting time at the signals. e.g., if a traffic light at a certain road crossing starts green at 06:30 hours and continue to be green till 06:32 hours and again turns green at 06:36 hours and continuous green till 06:38 hours. This cycle is repeated throughout the day. If a person’s arrival time at this crossing is random and uniform over the interval 18:20 to 18:35 hours, then the chances that he may have to stop at this signal can easily be envisioned by probability.
[In every 6 minutes, the light remains green for 2 minutes and red for 4 minutes. So, in the interval, 18:20 hours-18:35 hours i.e, 15 minutes, the light will remain green for 2/6×15=5 minutes & red for 10 minutes. Thus, the probability that he has to wait at the signal=10/15=2/3 ~ 67 % ] And lots-n-lots of other. Applications of probability.
Probability is a measure for quantifying the likelihood that events will occur. Probability of an event to happen lies between 0 and 1, where, 0 indicates impossibility and 1 indicates certainty. The higher the probability of an event, the more likely it is that the event will occur.
Decisions are easy to take when we have several options and we choose only one on the basis of higher probability. Even if anybody is not able to change his/she chance, he/she is able to guess which option is more likely to happen over the others.
Probability is all around us and it does influence our lives every day. We should not ignore analyzing small probabilities, they seem insignificant but oversight these may deprive us of happy ending.
‘Life is a Probability and Probability is life’
3. Kahneman D. Slovic P. & Tversky A.(eds). Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Cambridge University Press
4. Lee PM, 'Bayesian Statistics: An Introduction, Arnold, London UK
Dr. Anil Taneja is a Professor of Mathematics in Skyline University Nigeria. He has a PhD. in Mathematics from M.D. University Rohtak, India.