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January 28th, 2007, 03:36 PM   #1
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Empirical or Theoretical Probability?

Geologists say that the probability of a major earthquake occurring the San Francisco Bay area in the next 30 years is about 90%. Is this empirical probability or theoretical probability?


What is the difference between Empirical or Theoretical Probability?
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January 28th, 2007, 05:47 PM   #2
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The term empirical means "based on observation or experiment." An empirical probability is generally, but not always, given with a number indicating the possible percent error (e.g. 80+/-3%). A theoretical probability, however, is one that is calculated based on theory, i.e., without running any experiments.

Since there is no theory that will calculate the probability that an area will experiance an earthquake within a given time frame, the 90% figure is an empirical probability, presumably based on data of major earthquakes in the San Francisco area over past years.
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January 29th, 2007, 01:25 PM   #3
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Thank you. I was not sure what the difference between the two terms were.
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