A wise, roguish smuggler once said, "don't tell me the odds." But one world famous mathematician couldn't disagree more.
In the 1970's, Oxford math professor Doyne Farmer, then a graduate student, devised a system to predict the outcome of the seemingly random roulette table, which involved using a wearable computer and being really, really smart. Adding to the secrecy of the system, he had never planned on telling anyone just how he did it…until now.
"I kept silent because I did not want to communicate any information that might prevent anyone from taking the casinos' money," Farmer said a draft paper he sent to New Scientist. "I see no good reason for staying silent any longer."
Farmer's sudden willingness to reveal the tricks of his proverbial trade were prompted when University of Western Australia in Perth student Michael Small and Hong Kong Polytechnic University student Michael Tse submitted research to the journal Chaos in which they "set out to determine to what extent that determinism can really be exploited for profit."
In the journal, they describe a system to predict the outcome of roulette. Even though they refer to Farmer's experiences in their research, Tse and Small's method for calculation uses rim friction, while Farmer's uses air resistance.
From the New Scientist:
"Their model divides the game into two parts: what happens while the ball rolls around the rim of the wheel and then falls, which is highly predictable, and what happens after the ball starts bouncing around, which is chaotic and hard to predict. Because the first part is predictable, Small and Tse were able to calculate roughly where the ball would begin its erratic bouncing and therefore in which part of the wheel it was more likely to land."
Farmer plans on publishing his own findings soon, though, finally shedding light on a secret he's been carrying for over 30 years. His findings should garner quite a bit of interest amongst casual followers and fellow mathematicians alike.
So could you waltz into a casino with a computer strapped to your chest and start racking up chips? We wouldn't recommend it, as the researchers all agree that casinos nowadays are onto the scheme.