Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
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Grand Panjandrum
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Postby Slava » Thu May 30, 2013 6:19 pm

Here's today's Good Word:

Dr. Goodword wrote:• stochastic •

Pronunciation: sto-kæs-tik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Random. 2. Following a random distribution pattern, such that its probability may be analyzed statistically, but not predicted precisely. 3. (Rare) Pertaining to conjecture, speculation.

Notes: Stochastic is generally left to the realm of science, but any area of behavior that can only be measured statistically is stochastic. This word comes with a retinue of the usual suspects: a noun, stochasticity, and another form of the adjective, stochastical, with the meaningless suffix -al that must be present in the adverb, stochastically.

In Play: Today's Good Word may be used as a high-falutin' synonym for random: "Hurricanes and tornadoes are stochastic events which are difficult if not impossible to predict." The other meaning of stochastic is the antonym of deterministic and empirical: "Most of the research on smoking has relied on stochastic analysis, but all of it has shown the same results as the empirical research."

Word History: This Good Word comes from Greek stochastikos "able to guess, speculating" from stochazesthai "guess, speculate". The verb, in turn, is based on stochos "aim, target, goal", which originally referred to a pointed stick set up for archers to shoot at. Greek inherited this word from Proto-Indo-European ste(n)gh- "stick, prick, pointed", which came to English via the Old Germanic language as sting. Without the Fickle N the word became stagga in Old English and stag in Modern English. (I hope the suggestion of today's Good Word by Barbara Kelly was not stochastic; I would like to receive many more.)
Last edited by Slava on Thu May 30, 2013 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Perry Lassiter
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu May 30, 2013 7:17 pm

If my understanding is correct, the electron is a great example. You can measure either its location or its velocity, but not both, because to measure either, you have to bounce a photon or something off it, which is rather like caroming a billiard ball. You physics types may want to tweak that a bit - or a whole lot!

Grand Panjandrum
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Postby MTC » Fri May 31, 2013 5:59 am

"There are three stochastics, panel. Two are imposters. Only one is the real stochastic. Will the real stochastic please stand up!"

Sorry, suddenly began channeling Bud Collyer...

But back to random selection, in my view life itself is a stochastic process; "in a stochastic or random process there is some indeterminacy: even if the initial condition (or starting point) is known, there are several (often infinitely many) directions in which the process may evolve."


Philip Hudson
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Postby Philip Hudson » Fri May 31, 2013 5:02 pm

Although I have two degrees in Mathematics, I have not studied statistics or probability to any depth. I styled myself a "pure" mathematician and thus avoided those courses. My boss, who won a Nobel Prize, once gave me an assignment that I opined had a 0.1 to the 100th power chance of working. (I didn't do the math, I just knew it was not doable). Jack Kilby replied, "Phil, I purposely avoided studying statistics and probability because I didn't want to know the probability of failure. Do it!" I did it. I didn't do it the way he suggested because it would never have worked that way. But I found another way.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

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