|(quoted from Drop)|
Professor Watkins picked up after the second ring. "Jerrica, darling! What a delight to see you on my caller ID."
Jerrica smiled at the sound of his clipped voice, the familiar dry humor. "Hello, Professor."
"Now, my dear, please tell me that you are calling with a fascinating mathematical problem because I've had the most dreadfully dull day."
Jerrica laughed. "Well, actually -- I am."
"I think," Jerrica amended. Quickly, Jerica explained about the cards, about her predictions. "Do you think it's possible that there is a -- pattern? To the numbers?"
"A pattern? No."
Jerrica felt a flash of disappointment. But the professor added, "Jerrica, I do believe that there may be a formula -- or perhaps a series of formulas -- that would help us understand probability better than we do now. In fact, there was a set of principles I was working on in my younger days. "She heard the sound of rustling paper at the other end, a friendly static crackle that told her the professor was searching through the piles on his overloaded desk. "I didn't get very far with it, but I could show you what I've got --"
"And you think the principles are showing up in the cards?"
"I think you might be intuiting them, yes. That happens, you see. We have a sense that something is happening, then we have a sense of why it happens, and then we find the numbers to express it. Think about savants -- no one understands how their minds work. They make incredibly complex mathematical calculations without ever having been taught formulas -- they simply feel their way through the numbers."
"But why would I be able to predict cards?" Jerrica asked.
"My dear, I don't think that you are predicting cards." The professor's voice was gentler than usual. "I think you're calculating odds and coming up with outcomes. After all, how do you think probability was discovered? It's all inspired by questions about gambling. In the seventeenth century the Cevalier de Mere ... asked the brilliant French mathematician Blaise Pascal to answer the question. And he did."
"Amazing," Jerrica said.
"Yes." Professor Watkin's voice was slow and thoughtful. "Of course, shortly thereafter Pascal went completely insane," he added cheerfully.