Science Corner: It’s in the Cards

The game of heads-up limit Texas Hold ’em poker has effectively been solved. As I understand it, solving a game means identifying the best move to make in any given situation. Other games, like tic-tac-toe and checkers, have been solved in the past, but this result is significant because it is the first solved game where the player does not know everything about the current game situation–mainly, what cards their opponent is holding. The lessons learned have applications to a wide range of real-life situations where decisions have to be made without complete information about one’s circumstances.

Apart from its scientific significance, this result is personally of interest because the PI, Michael Bowling, is a friend and the future father-in-law of my daughter. Or at least that’s how the kids told it with their early elementary school sensibilities. They looked at which person of the opposite gender they spent the most time with and extrapolated that situation into the future. Quite rational, really, assuming one can be certain that the future looks like the present.

However, now that the kids live about 2,000 miles apart, I sense some uncertainty creeping in. Realizing one doesn’t have all the information about the future is part of becoming an adult, and makes this research more relevant. Yet for the Christian, this can introduce some tension. If God has complete information about the future, why doesn’t he pass that along so we can make better decisions? Why does Joseph get a heads-up about a famine while we are left guessing about what climate change might bring? If this is part of humanity’s growing up process, what are we meant to learn collectively?

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.

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