By John V. Walsh – February 8, 2016 –

The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses

Hillary Clinton “won” the Iowa caucuses, in part because of 6 coin tosses all of which she won! Six precincts, at least, ended up with a dead tie between the two candidates. The tie was broken and a winner declared based on a coin toss in each case.

What are the odds of one of two candidates winning all six coin tosses if the outcomes are random, that is, if the tosses are fair, unbiased and with honest coins?

The calculation is so simple that a schoolboy or schoolgirl can do it. The formula is simply 1/2 raised to the power of 6 – that is, 1/2 taken six times and multiplied.

The probability of winning all six tosses by chance alone is 1/64. That is 0.016 or 1.6 in 100 or 1.6%. Not even 2%! In many areas of science including many areas of biology, one must demonstrate that the result of one’s experiments is unlikely to happen by chance alone. If the probability of getting the results by chance alone is less than less than 5%, the result reported is considered to be “significant,’ that is, not likely to be a chance finding. Such a result is publishable in highly respected journals.

Since the probability of the outcome in Iowa was … read more here