Science!
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.

Super Bowl
6:46pm ET

Idina Menzel started Super Bowl XLIX on the right note, with a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Watch her impressive performance in the video below. —Catherine Garcia

$$$$
2:39pm ET
Jamie Squire / Getty Images

President Obama's forthcoming budget proposal will include a request for $478 billion for vast infrastructure improvements, to be funded with a 14 percent tax on $2 trillion in corporate earnings held abroad. The six-year plan is a more robust version of a policy Obama has proposed in the past. Obama is to unveil his budget on Monday.

Doubling Down
2:09pm ET
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday stood by his harsh criticism of protesters who last week interrupted a Senate hearing with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

"I was outraged and I'm still outraged," McCain said on CNN, arguing that the protesters were physically threatening Kissinger. "I think they're terrible people that would do that to a 91-year-old man with a broken shoulder," he added.

Last week, McCain called protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink "low-life scum" after they brandished banners and handcuffs during the hearing. —Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
1:14pm ET
Screenshot / CNN

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday said homosexuality is a "lifestyle" choice, adding that while he disagreed with it personally, he was accepting of people with different beliefs.

"I don't drink alcohol, but gosh, a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do," he said on CNN. "I don't use profanity, but believe me I've got a lot of friends who do. Some people really like classical music and ballet and opera. It's not my cup of tea."

Deflategate
12:35pm ET
Rob Carr / Getty Images

Deflategate may have been a bunch of hot air. 

The NFL's investigation into the New England Patriots' alleged ball tampering has determined that the footballs used in last month's AFC Championship were not as underinflated as previously believed, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Though previous reports said 11 of 12 footballs were each underinflated by two pounds per square inch, the league actually found many to be only "a few ticks" under the minimum allowable PSI; only one was two pounds under the limit.

The Patriots denied tampering with the balls in any way, and team owner Robert Kraft demanded an apology from the NFL should it find no evidence of wrongdoing.

2016 Watch
12:03pm ET
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Sunday that the U.S. had to be "prepared to put boots on the ground" in Syria and Iraq to battle ISIS. In an appearance on ABC's This Week, the potential 2016 candidate said that he did not consider it an "immediate plan," but that it should remain on the table.

Also Sunday, a Des Moines Register poll showed Walker leading a hypothetical GOP field in Iowa one year out from the Iowa caucuses. Walker declined to say Sunday if he was indeed preparing a White House run, though he said he "wouldn't bet against me on anything."

ISIS Crisis
11:28am ET
Screenshot / CNN

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday condemned the Islamic State's apparent killing of journalist Kenji Goto, calling it a "despicable and horrendous act of terrorism."

ISIS on Saturday released a video purporting to  show Goto's decapitated body after its demand of a prisoner exchange went unmet. Though the video has yet to be authenticated, both Japan and the U.S. have released statements tacitly confirming it is real.

"To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act," Abe said.

Watch this
11:05am ET
Screenshot / NBC

As you may have heard, the Super Bowl is finally here. So ahead of the big game, Saturday Night Live showed what it would be like if the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman hosted their own talk show. Incredibly, a special guest even got he media-averse Lynch (played by Kenan Thompson) to crack a smile and open up a little bit. — Jon Terbush

This just in
9:39am ET
Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Egypt on Sunday said it freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste and would soon deport him to his native Australia.

Greste was arrested in December 2013 and accused of publishing false news, sparking an international outcry from free press advocates who considered the charges bogus. Egypt has not said what it plans to do with two other Al Jazeera reporters, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were imprisoned along with Greste.

This just in
7:37am ET
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Novak Djokovic on Sunday defeated Andy Murray in four sets — 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 — to claim a record fifth Australian Open title.

The top-ranked player in the world, Djokovic remained perfect in Australian Open finals while claiming his eighth Grand Slam. Murray, who has never won the event, settled for his fourth second place finish in Melbourne.

See More Speed Reads