Up In The Air: Coin Tosses Not as Neutral As You Think

coin flip

We’ve all flipped a coin to make a decision or figure out who gets the first turn. And, unless the coin was rigged in some way or the person flipping the coin is a magician, we assume that the coin has an equal chance of landing on either heads or tails. But according to a group of Stanford researchers who presumably have a whole lot of time on their hands, the revered coin flip isn’t all that neutral. In fact, it’s downright biased.

coin flip 2

Even if the coin in question is perfectly manufactured, perfectly clean and free of all factors that might influence the flip, the potential results of a coin toss are about 51-49, not 50-50 as most of us believe. The research states that it’s possible to predict the outcome of a coin toss based on which side is face-up before the flip – though there are still a few ways to introduce a bit of randomness into the mix. Check out the research project for a detailed and sciencey explanation, or read this slightly easier-to-understand explanation from Coding the Wheel.

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See more in Weird Science or under Science. September, 2009.

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