Sports players (or teams) are often described as being hot or cold, implying there is something inherently "streaky" about an athlete's performance that extrapolates to the next try. But what is a streak, and what makes us think past performance has anything to do with future performance? 

In the video from an SFI Community Lecture in Santa Fe October 15, SFI Professor Sid Redner uses data from 10 seasons of professional basketball and more than a century of major league baseball to show that the notion of a scoring streak is a fallacy and that win/loss records in professional baseball are similarly a memoryless, random process. Finally, he breaks out the math to demonstrate that America's pastime is getting progressively more competitive — no more dynasties or perennial losers.

Watch Redner's talk (67 minutes)

Listen to a pre-lecture interview with Sid Redner on the Santa Fe Radio Cafe (22 minutes, October 14, 2014)

Read an article about the lecture in the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 12, 2014)

Sid Redner, a physicist and SFI Professor, is not a sports fan, but has taken an interest in sports statistics since childhood. Today, his research interests lie broadly in non-equilibrium statistical physics and its applications to a variety of phenomena. In recent years, he has worked extensively on the structure of complex networks, where he has developed new models and new methods to elucidate network structures. He has also devoted considerable effort to formulate and solve physics-based models of social dynamics.

SFI’s 2014 Community Lectures are made possible through the generous support of Thornburg Investment Management.

For a complete listing of upcoming SFI community events, please check here.