Can anyone really predict the future?

Mathematics are the building blocks of the universe. You can describe almost anything with an equation, from a sunrise to a piece of grass blowing in the breeze. While mathematics can’t tell you who you’re going to marry or what your future pet’s name will be, there are certain ways in which mathematics can predict the future. This process is called ‘probability’. Probability entails calculating the likelihood of something occurring. Based on information we know about a situation we can calculate the possible outcomes as well as how likely it will be to achieve these outcomes. For example, imagine you have a bag with five marbles in it. Two marbles are blue, two are yellow and one is red. If you were to reach into the bag without looking and pick a marble what colour do you think it would be? The process to figure out the likelihood of each possible outcome is quite simple. All you need to do is calculate the percentage of picking a blue marble, a yellow marble or a red marble. There are two blue marbles out of the total five and 2/5 converted into a percentage is 40%, therefore there is a 40% chance that the marble you pick out of the bag is blue. It’s easy. But, it can get a bit more complicated with each variable and when you make the outcomes more specific. For example, what is the possibility of you picking two blue marbles out of the bag without seeing which marble you’re taking? While the probability of picking the first blue marble stays the same, the probability of picking the second blue marble is different because the total has been reduced by one. So, the probability of the second marble you pick being blue is 1/4 rather than 2/5. To get the overall probability of picking two blue marbles one after the other you have to times these probabilities together, which leaves you with 1/10 after simplification. So, the probability of picking two blue marbles is 10%.

While most gambling games are based on luck there are some in which probability can be used to predict the future outcome. When you play slot machines, for example, there is a way that you can predict the likelihood of a jackpot win. On a traditional slot machine each reel has 20 symbols on it. The probability of landing on one of these symbols on the first reel is therefore 1/20 (5%). The possibility of the second reel landing on the same exact same symbol is therefore is 1/20 x 1/20 which equals 1/400 (0.25%). The process is then continued on depending on how many reels are on the slot machine you’re using. If there are four reels the probability would be 1/20 x 1/20 x 1/20 x 1/20. Every slot machine is different, however. Depending on how many reels it has, how many symbols are on each reel and whether or not each reel has more than one of the same symbol, the probability of success can improve. This is how odds are calculated. On the best online slots you will be told the odds which will give you an indication as to what your probability of success is.

While this type of maths is incredibly useful, as you try to predict situations with more detail you can find fascinating probabilities that are increasingly complex and many scientists and mathematicians have fun predicting incredibly unlikely futures. For example, how likely is it that you reach into your bag of coloured marbles and pull out a frog? What is the likely hood that the first reel of a slot machine lands on a 7 and the second reel of the slot machine explodes? Once you start learning and having fun with probability you will find that it is very possible that your future will hold something extraordinary.