October 2, 2017

Our sympathies to the family of Monty Hall, who died Saturday at 96 (and yes, his daughter referred to in the linked story is actress/singer Joanna Gleason, known for many TV, movie and stage roles). Monty Hall hosted several game shows, but he was most famous for the entertainingly goofy “Let’s Make A Deal,” which he hosted on various outlets for 28 years, a run that nearly equals Johnny Carson’s. It was the show where audience members dressed in ridiculous costumes to try to grab his attention, and always had to sweat over whether to take Door Number 1, 2 or 3, or trade away their winnings for what the lovely Carol Merrill had in the mystery box.

“Let’s Make A Deal” was addictive fun, but it was also the only game show that inspired a serious statistical probability puzzle known as the Monty Hall Problem. It asks that if given a choice of one of three doors that are hiding one good prize and two bad ones, and one of the bad ones is revealed to be behind a door you didn’t pick, do you improve your odds of winning if you switch to the other door that you didn’t originally pick? It seems illogical, but you actually do improve your chances. At the link is an explanation and an online game that lets you test it yourself. It’s amazing what you can learn from people dressed in cow costumes:


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