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April 29th, 2011, 02:57 AM   #1
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At what point is a probability impossible?

Hi all,

This is my first post to this site... so go easy, lol.

My question is related to science and probability. And is hopefully simple.

I was under the impression that when an event/occurence becomes EXTREMELY unlikely (say, I don't know, 1 in 10-to-the-power-of-127) it has to be written off as impossible, scientifically speaking. Yes I'm aware that mathematically speaking it COULD still occur, but in all practicality it won't so let's just say it won't.

What is the name and probability 'amount' at which an event becomes written off as impossible?

If I have missed a previous thread about this then please provide a link and I'll close this one off.

Thanks all, I look forward to your replies.

Mike
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April 29th, 2011, 06:51 AM   #2
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Re: At what point is a probability impossible?

An event is said impossible if the probability is zero; an event happens almost never if the probability tends to zero, but is still possible. For example, consider a square and choose any point inside it, let's call that point P. If you randomly choose any point there, there is zero probability that the point P will be the one chosen, since there are infinite points there. Yet, it is possible.

Another example: What is the probability of tossing a coin infinite times, and have as result infinite heads? This happens almost never, but technically, is possible.
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April 29th, 2011, 07:12 AM   #3
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Re: At what point is a probability impossible?

It also depends on the trial rate. Even with odds that low, if there are 10^100 trials per second, to us, it will happen often. This is actually how neutrinos were discovered. Even though the probability of an individual neutrino interacting with a massive detector is negligible, there are so many passing through it that one is bound to cause a reaction within a small period of time. I don't know numbers, but it doesn't take long.
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