Thursday, 17 March 2011

Letter from Bob Wilkins

Dear James,

I noticed the comments you made about my book Bioenergetics and Racehorse Ratings on your blog. Thank you, your remarks were much appreciated.

Many people want to buy books on racing in the hope that they will find a silver bullet that will make them rich. This book is not about that, but it is quite difficult to get the message over.

In Richard Epstein's 1967 book, The Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic, the author gave up on racing because it didn't yield to his methods of statistical analysis. One year's results turned out to be significantly different from the previous year's and so on  - and Epstein couldn't cope with what he called "non-stationary processes".

This always puzzled me, but it took another 20 years before the solution arrived, when I read James Gleick's book Chaos. It explained so many things, not just to do with racing, but also in my professional life as an engineer.

We still have to use statistical tools (e.g. by taking an average value), but must be aware that there is an underlying chaotic component in anything that involves non-linear or turbulent activity.


Bob Wilkins