(Roughly) Daily

“Oops, I did it again”*…

(Roughly) Daily has contemplated game theory a number of times (e.g., here). The Generalist Academy offers a particularly poignant example…

Football [or, as it’s called in the U.S., soccer] has a lot of strange rules – like Ted Lasso, I still don’t understand exactly how the offside rule works. But the basic game is pretty simple: get the ball into your opponent’s goal, and prevent them from getting the ball into your goal. Scoring a goal against your own side is a rare and accidental embarrassment. Usually.

The qualification round for the 1994 Caribbean Cup had some unusual rules. No match could end in a draw; if the teams were tied at the end of regular time, they would go into sudden death extra time. But! Any goal scored in extra time would count as two goals. This was presumably done because this tournament, like many, used goal difference to break ties in the qualifying groups. (Goal difference = total number of goals they’ve scored minus the number of goals they’ve conceded.) So that extra time “golden goal” would give a team an edge in the overall competition. Little did the organisers know that it would also lead to one of the strangest football games ever seen…

A truly remarkable match: “Own-Goal Football,” from @GeneralistAcad.

* Britney Spears (Songwriters: Martin Max / Rami Yacoub)


As we work backwards, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to Félix Édouard Justin Émile Borel; he was born on this date in 1871. A mathematician (and politician, who served as French Minister of the Navy), he is remembered for his foundational work in measure theory and probability. He published a number of research papers on game theory and was the first to define games of strategy.

But Borel may be best remembered for a thought experiment he introduced in one of his books, proposing that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard will – with absolute certainty – eventually type every book in France’s Bibliothèque Nationale de France. This is now popularly known as the infinite monkey theorem.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 7, 2023 at 1:00 am

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