May 21, 2014

Earlier this month, two researchers at University College, London, published some surprising findings in the journal Cognition. The gambling phenomenon known as the "hot hand" — the idea that if you are on a winning streak you'll continue to win — is real. And not only is it real, but your chances of winning appear to rise significantly after each winning hand.

Juemin Xu and Nigel Harvey reached their conclusion by studying 565,915 online sports bets made by 776 gamblers in 2010. Overall, the gamblers won 40 percent of the time (the house always wins, eventually). But if one of the gamblers won, his odds of winning the next hand rose to 49 percent, then 57 percent in hand three, 67 percent in hand four, 72 percent on the fifth wager, and an insane 75 percent on the sixth consecutive winning hand. This is what that looks like in graph form, via Xu and Harvey's paper:

For losers, flip those charts horizontally: Losers keep on losing and losing. Skill had nothing to do with it either way. What's going on? "I certainly don't want people to think that if you're winning that you're more likely to win and eventually you win, win, win," Xu told says The New Yorker's Jay Caspian Kang. The key is apparently the gambler's fallacy, described by Xu and Harvey as "If you have been losing, you are more likely to win in future."

What appears to happen, according to the paper, is that "after winning, gamblers selected safer odds. After losing, they selected riskier odds." Winners keep on winning, Xu and Harvey say, because they are "worried their good luck was not going to continue, so they selected safer odds." Sure, but if you're losing, looks best to walk away. Peter Weber

2016 Watch
9:21 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jeb Bush says the strife in Baltimore proves the war on poverty "failed" to expand opportunity in America's most disadvantaged communities. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Wednesday, the presumptive 2016 candidate writes that Democrats are wrongly responding to the unrest with calls to increase government spending and reform the criminal justice system.

Trouble is, from the War on Poverty to the persistence of liberal big city mayors, the same government programs have been in place for over a half-century — and they have failed. We have spent trillions of dollars in the War on Poverty, and poverty not only persists, it is as intractable as ever. This represents a broken promise. And it feeds the anger of Baltimore. [Chicago Tribune]

More effective solutions to Baltimore's underlying ills, Bush adds, should involve overhauling the education system to make it more accountable, and "acknowledg[ing] that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents."

"Our goal should be to build up families," Bush writes.

Last week, Bush offered similar remarks about the potential for education reform to break "dependency" on failed big government policies. Jon Terbush

Rest in peace
9:13 a.m. ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In a moving Facebook post, Sheryl Sandberg pays tribute to her late husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, who died from head injuries after collapsing on a treadmill. 

Sandberg describes meeting Goldberg when she moved to Los Angeles. "He showed me the internet for the first time," Sandberg writes. She adds that while the couple "did not get nearly enough time together," she is incredibly grateful for the time they shared:

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way — and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit. [Facebook]

Sandberg concludes that while the days following Goldberg's death have been "the darkest and saddest moments" of her life, "11 years of being Dave Goldberg's wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined."

Read Sandberg's full post over at Facebook. Meghan DeMaria

Green thumbs down
9:13 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Talk about a vote of confidence. Garden State residents, which have voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections, would rather see Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Scott Walker in the White House rather than their own governor, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

In fact, only 1-in-4 residents say Christie has a decent shot at winning the GOP nomination in 2016.

Why all the ill will?

It's likely that New Jerseyans feel their concerns have been overshadowed by Christie's Oval-Office-shaped aspirations. And, no, the Bridgegate scandal hasn't helped shift souring attitudes. But when it comes down to it, a majority — 67 percent — of voters says Christie just doesn't have the right temperament to lead the country.

"The message from New Jersey voters seems to be as simple as ABC — anybody but Christie," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Lauren Hansen

bon appetit
9:09 a.m. ET
Courtesy Genie

If the 15 to 30 minutes you wait for food delivery feels like an eternity, Israeli company White Innovation may have the solution to your impatience, Reuters reports.

Meet the Genie, described by its creators as a real-life "replicator" — the popular Star Trek machine that could create meals on command. The Genie operates via a mobile app, on which its user can cue up one of a variety of snacks, meals, or desserts. Pop the corresponding pod into the coffee-maker-size device, and 30 seconds later, breakfast/lunch/dinner is served. The pods hold freeze-dried, all-natural ingredients that stay good for one to two years, giving the Genie's creators hope that in addition to a fun fad for gastronomes, the device could eventually prove useful for troop deployments or in developing countries.

Watch a video of the machine in action, over at Reuters. Sarah Eberspacher

9:07 a.m. ET
Mike Windle/Getty Images

When Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon suddenly quit Twitter this week, just days after the release of his polarizing new blockbuster, many speculated that his decision was motivated by a barrage of hate from internet trolls — specifically, attacks from "militant feminists" angry about the depiction of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in the Avengers sequel.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Whedon dismissed those claims. "That's horses--t," he said. "Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That's something I'm used to. Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause."

So why did he quit Twitter? To go to "the quiet place" as a writer as he focuses on developing his first post-Avengers project. "[Twitter is] like taking the bar exam at Coachella," said Whedon. "It’'s like, Um, I really need to concentrate on this! Guys! Can you all just… I have to… It's super important for my law!"

"The real issue is me," continued Whedon. "Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it's there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I'm like, 'You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there's hate and then hate and then hate."

For more from Whedon, click over to Buzzfeed. Scott Meslow

Coming Soon
8:47 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

At the U.S. Capitol next Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will unveil the "Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality," his answer to the "Contract with America."

Politico reports that the 13-point "Progressive Agenda" includes ideas from economist Joseph Stiglitz and other progressive leaders, including activists as well as elected officials. More than 60 people have signed on to the agenda, ranging from senators to national labor leaders to actors Steve Buscemi and Susan Sarandon. De Blasio discussed the ideas with progressives during a meeting at Gracie Mansion on April 2.

According to Politico, the agenda will include a universal pre-kindergarten program, as well as a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave. The agenda will also reportedly include "tax fairness" proposals to increase carried interest taxes. Meghan DeMaria

8:13 a.m. ET
CC by: Wally Gobetz

On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that, as Pope Francis had suggested four months ago, Rev. Junipero Serra will be canonized, at a ceremony on Sept. 23 while the pope is visiting Washington, D.C. Over the weekend, Francis celebrated a mass in honor of the 18th century Franciscan missionary at the U.S. seminary in Rome, after an academic conference on Serra's controversial legacy in California.

Serra, born Majorca in 1713, gave up his life as a professor of theology to become a missionary to the New World. He walked almost the entire length of California, establishing 21 missions. Many Native Americans view Serra negatively, accusing him of forcibly converting Indians and exposing them to deadly European diseases. The Catholic Church describes Serra as a protector of Indians who, along with bringing Christianity to the U.S. West, gave the indigenous Californians an education. Peter Weber

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