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Killer Space Rock Snuffed Out Ancient Life
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Results of GSAT are in schools this week
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A Long Trek to Asia
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Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
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Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
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Spin, Splat, and Scramble
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When Fungi and Algae Marry
Assembling the Tree of Life
A Giant Flower's New Family
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Witnessing a Rare Venus Eclipse
A Dead Star's Dusty Ring
World of Three Suns
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Young Scientists Take Flight
A Satellite of Your Own
Drawing Energy out of Wastewater
The Parts of Speech
Problems with Prepositions
What is a Noun
What is a Preposition?
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Robots on a Rocky Road
Flying the Hyper Skies
Morphing a Wing to Save Fuel
Weather
Either Martians or Mars has gas
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Science loses out when ice caps melt
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Losing with Heads or Tails

Heads, you win. Tails, you lose. It turns out that coin tosses may be less fair than you might think. A new mathematical analysis even suggests a way to increase your chances of winning. People use coin tosses all the time to make decisions and break ties. You've probably done it yourself to decide who gets the last piece of pizza or which team gets the ball first. Heads or tails? It's anybody's guess, but each side is supposed to have an equal chance of winning. That's not always true, say mathematicians from Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. For a coin toss to be truly random, they say, you have to flip the coin into the air so that it spins in just the right way. Most of the time, though, the coin doesn't spin perfectly. It might tip and wobble in the air. Sometimes it doesn't even flip over. In experiments, the researchers found that it's practically impossible to tell from watching a tossed coin whether it has flipped over. A tossed coin is typically in the air for just half a second, and a wobble can fool the eyes, no matter how carefully you watch. To see how wobbling affects the outcome, the researchers videotaped actual coin tosses and measured the angle of the coin in the air. They found that a coin has a 51 percent chance of landing on the side it started from. So, if heads is up to start with, there's a slightly bigger chance that a coin will land heads rather than tails. When it comes down to it, the odds aren't very different from 50-50. In fact, it would take about 10,000 tosses for you to really notice the difference. Still, when you're gunning for that last piece of candy, it can't hurt to have a leg up, no matter how small.E. Sohn

Losing with Heads or Tails
Losing with Heads or Tails








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