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Fun trivia: Stan Ulam was on sick-leave and was playing solitaire. He came up with the Monte Carlo method while trying to calculate the probability of a successful solitaire game. The method was named after his uncle's favorite place to gamble.

When he got back from sick-leave, he immediately began applying it to his work: calculations leading to the fusion bomb.

I find that little background stories like this help students to get engaged with subject.




I've been thinking a bit about hands of solitaire recently as I play it on my phone on the commute to work. It's cool to know that it's an interesting problem to other people as well.

At the same time, you know, I didn't even think to use Monte Carlo let alone design the damned thing...


As I understand it he got bored of the game itself, and was thinking about it at a higher level.

I've been playing it heavily recently though, and it seems to be so well weighted. Completing games about 10% of the time.

Trying to work out strategies to finish more games.


In the computer age, I am used to methods like this using huge numbers of samples to calculate the result.

How was this done before computers?


The theoretical validation of these methods drove much of the early development of computing in the 1930s (as a way to compute Monte Carlo estimates.)




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