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Solution to Chapter 4 Internet Project

Probability Distributions and Simulation


Exercise 1 Suppose the bins at the bottom of the quincunx are numbered from 0 to N. Argue that the probability of a marble landing in bin number N follows a binomial distribution where N represents the number of trials and the probability p is . Answer: Answers will vary here and a formal argument is beyond the scope of the typical student at this level. An acceptable answer is one where the student demonstrates that the terminal bin follows a binomial distribution for a small number of bins such as N = 2 or N = 3. An informal but intuitive argument can be given as follows. Suppose the pegs are numbered according to Pascals triangle as illustrated.

The number associated with a peg represents the number of different possible paths the falling marble could take to reach that peg. For example, there are three paths to the first peg labeled 3 as in the picture below.

The number of paths to bin N is therefore the binomial coefficient


N

N! The probability of any x!(N x)!

1 1 1 one path occurring is ... = so the probability of landing in bin number x is 2 2 2 N! 1 which is the binomial probability with p = . x!(N x)! 2 Exercise 2 Write down the distribution for the case N=8. Answer Using the binomial probability formula N! p x (1- p) N - x and the values x!(N x)!
N

Solution to Chapter 4 Internet Project

Probability Distributions and Simulation


N =8, p = and x = 0, 1, 8 the following table of probabilities can be generated. Bin Probability 0 0.004 1 0.031 2 0.109 3 0.219 4 0.273 5 0.219 6 0.109 7 0.031 8 0.001

Exercise 3 If 350 marbles pass through the quincunx, how many marbles would you predict would land in each of the nine bins? Answer The expected number of marbles in each bin can be found by multiplying each entry in the table in Exercise 2 by the number of marbles, in this case, 350. The results, rounded to the nearest whole number, are given in the table below. Bin Expected number of marbles 0 1 1 11 2 38 3 77 4 96 5 77 6 38 7 11 8 1

Exercise 4 Click here to view an animation that simulates the quincunx using 350 marbles and 8 rows of pegs. At the end of the video, count the number of marbles in each bin. Compare with your predictions from Exercise 3. Do they agree? Discuss why your predictions and the simulation may disagree Answer The number of marbles in each bin at the end of the animation is given in the table below. Bin Observed number of marbles 0 2 1 6 2 34 3 78 4 92 5 70 6 47 7 18 8 3

The observed values do not agree exactly with the expected values predicted in Exercise 3 because expected values represent averages over many runs of an experiment and will not necessarily agree with a single experimental outcome. Note in this case the expected values do provide good estimates of the values actually observed. Exercise 5 Suppose you could build a quincunx that would accommodate any number of pegs, bins and marbles. Imagine the bins becoming narrower and the marbles shrinking to fit. What do you think youd see as the number of bins increases and a near infinite number of marbles pass through? Answer As the bins become narrower and more marbles fill the bins, the tops of the marble stacks will form a bell-shaped curve.