Probability Is Logic: Philosophy of Probability & Statistics Video Series

I’m starting—and even continuing, if there is interest—a new video series on the philosophy of probability and statistics.

Look at those retro production values! I boast of them following Julia Child who advised to say when anybody asked as pointed question about a meal, “It’s supposed to be like that.”

Probability is a matter of logic. It does not exist; it is not a physical, real thing. It measures how true one thing is with respect to another, which is to say, how true one proposition is given a set of premises or data. When premises change, so does the probability. This is demonstrated using divination stones, bwa bwei.


Note to computer geeks. I don’t have a camera, so I recorded this video with a Logitech webcam on my Kubuntu machine (the minimal Dell laptop). I tried ffmpeg, cheese, but settled on VLC for recording. I had endless difficulties with the audio being out of sync with the video, a very common problem. Except for the tip to install everything related to gstreamer, searching for solutions did not help. Everything failed.

Finally I recognized that the audio was jumping each time the computer dimmed its screen, which it did automatically at stated intervals. So I switched off of the power management and found joy.

I used kdelive to edit the video, and to the best of my ability compensated for the fluctuating white balance and other imperfections. Many flaws remain, as is obvious. Including the frightening mien of the presenter. But life is imperfect.


  1. Scotian

    Nice suit Briggs, although I expected someone to bust through the back door and to demand to know who you are talking to. I think that the Feynman like New York accent adds a bit of style as well. Looking forward to the sequels.

  2. Gary

    Nice explanation to start things off. I wonder, though, if it’s that big a difference to ask the controlling deity to impart just a little or a lot more energy to the objects. What seems to be a more significant difference is that imparting energy to a chaotically moving object would be hidden behind commonplace motion, but flipping over an object at rest is paranormal. The former is mystical, the latter spooky — and frightening.

    Yes, production values need improvement. With the framing, I wondered if you might be wearing a hat (and therefore might be a Martian not named George) until you bobbed a bit, revealing no fedora. Looking forward to episode 2.

  3. Dr. Briggs, Good show! Nice to see that you are involving the Deity. As Dr. Einstein is quoted as having said, “Random events are God’s way of remaining anonymous. I think Liebniz also said someting to that effect in reference to the evolution / intelligent design controversy. I am eagerly awaiting to see you unlock a mystery.

  4. Bert Walker

    I can predict with 100% certainty a better quality video will result if one were to use a light reflector ( white sheet, poster board, foam core board ect.) at a 45 degree angle on the right reflecting the left sided light source back onto your face and torso.
    BTW the composition was good although if possible to adjust your computer field of view to not cut off the top of your head it would be better.
    I enjoyed the video format, and dang!, you look good!

  5. Jim Fedako


    I like it … but … I am limited in my ability to watch videos. While I can read your posts on my PC or older cellphone or print and read later, I do not have an iPhone and so have relatively limited accessibility to videos.

  6. Briggs


    I don’t use an iPhone either, but the videos look okay on my laptop. Are you having trouble seeing them on the computer?

  7. Jim Fedako

    Oh. The videos look great on my PC. It’s just that I may not be able to watch all your videos (due to not having access, such as while away from my personal PC), while I can always find a way to read your posts.

    If you are looking to switch media, I might end up missing video posts. But if you are talking the odd video, I will find time to watch .. and enjoy.

  8. Briggs


    Oh, no. No more than one video a week. I’m shooting for each Sunday, which is a slow day anyway.

  9. Francsois

    Nice video (and suit), engaging way of talking. I felt a bit like a pervert watching, with the video framed by black, making it look like staring through a keyhole.

  10. JH

    Thank you, Mr. Briggs! This video brings back fond memories of Grandma.

    The divination stones we had were made of wood and called gau-eh in my Hakka dialect. My dutiful and faithful Grandma would use them to ask for our ancestral guidance when she was uncertain about something. Our ancestral shrine was conveniently located in the center of our farmhouse. The rule she used is different.

    When she threw a >seo-gau of two flat sides indicating the ancestors smiled at her since they couldn’t make a decision, she would sincerely explain more to them and then throw again.

    When a sen-gau of yes resulted, she would happily accept the answer.

    However, when she cast a yin-gau of two perturbing sides, an answer of no, my funny Grandma would ask the same thing and throw again as if she was asking the ancestors, “Are you sure?” If another yin-gau showed up, she was done asking as we all know that being told “no” twice is quite enough. Otherwise, she would ask again and toss for the last (3rd) time, which gives the final answer of the ancestors.

    “No more than three times,” she said because it’s not good to nag at our ancestors. She made up her own rules, I think.

  11. Briggs


    What a great story. Thanks. I like your grandma’s last comment.

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