# Discrete Mathematics and Probability Theory Fall 2009 Satish Rao, David Tse Note 13. Random Variables: Distribution and Expectation

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1 CS 70 Discrete Mathematics and Probability Theory Fall 2009 Satish Rao, David Tse Note 3 Random Variables: Distribution and Expectation Random Variables Question: The homeworks of 20 students are collected in, randomly shuffled and returned to the students. How many students receive their own homework? To answer this question, we first need to specify the probability space: plainly, it should consist of all 20! permutations of the homeworks, each with probability 20!. [Note that this is the same as the probability space for card shuffling, except that the number of items being shuffled is now 20 rather than 52.] It helps to have a picture of a permutation. Think of 20 books lined up on a shelf, labeled from left to right with,2,...,20. A permutation π is just a reordering of the books, which we can describe just by listing their labels from left to right. Let s denote by π i the label of the book that is in position i. We are interested in the number of books that are still in their original position, i.e., in the number of i s such that π i = i. These are often known as fixed points of the permutation. Of course, our question does not have a simple numerical answer such as 6), because the number depends on the particular permutation we choose i.e., on the sample point). Let s call the number of fixed points X. To make life simpler, let s also shrink the class size down to 3 for a while. The following table gives a complete listing of the sample space of size 3! = 6), together with the corresponding value of X for each sample point. [We use our bookshelf convention for writing a permutation: thus, for example, the permutation 32 means that book 3 is on the left, book in the center, and book 2 on the right. You should check you agree with this table.] permutation π value of X Thus we see that X takes on values 0, or 3, depending on the sample point. A quantity like this, which takes on some numerical value at each sample point, is called a random variable or r.v.) on the sample space. Definition 3. random variable): A random variable X on a sample space Ω is a function that assigns to each sample point ω Ω a real number Xω). Until further notice, we ll restrict out attention to random variables that are discrete, i.e., they take values in a range that is finite or countably infinite. The r.v. X in our permutation example above is completely specified by its values at all sample points, as given in the above table. Thus, for example, X23) = 3 etc.) CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3

2 Figure : Visualization of how a random variable is defined on the sample space. A random variable can be visualized in general by the picture in Figure. Note that the term random variable is really something of a misnomer: it is a function so there is nothing random about it and it is definitely not a variable! What is random is which sample point of the experiment is realized and hence the value that the random variable maps the sample point to. Distribution When we introduce the basic probability space in Note 0, we defined two things: ) the sample space Ω consisting of all the possible outcomes sample points) of the experiment; 2) the probability of each of the sample points. Analogously, there are two things important about any random variable: ) the set of values that it can take ; 2) the probabilities with which it takes on the values. Since a random variable is defined on a probability space, we can calculate these probabilities given the probabilities of the sample points. Let a be any number in the range of a random variable X. Then the set {ω Ω : Xω) = a} is an event in the sample space why?). We usually abbreviate this event to simply X = a. Since X = a is an event, we can talk about its probability, Pr[X = a]. The collection of these probabilities, for all possible values of a, is known as the distribution of the r.v. X. Definition 3.2 distribution): The distribution of a discrete random variable X is the collection of values {a,pr[x = a]) : a A }, where A is the set of all possible values taken by X. Thus the distribution of the random variable X in our permutation example above is and Pr[X = a] = 0 for all other values of a. Pr[X = 0] = 3 ; Pr[X = ] = 2 ; Pr[X = 3] = 6 ; This and other figures in this note are inspired by figures in Chapter 2 of Introduction to Probability by D. Bertsekas and J. Tsitsiklis. CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 2

3 Figure 2: Visualization of how the distribution of a random variable is defined. The distribution of a random variable can be visualized as a bar diagram, shown in Figure 2. The x-axis represents the values that the random variable can take on. The height of the bar at a value a is the probability Pr[X = a]. Each of these probabilities can be computed by looking at the probability of the corresponding event in the sample space. Note that the collection of events X = a, a A, satisfy two important properties: any two events X = a and X = a 2 with a a 2 are disjoint. the union of all these events is equal to the entire sample space Ω. The collection of events thus form a partition of the sample space see Figure 2). Both properties follow directly from the fact that X is a function defined on Ω, i.e. X assigns a unique value to each and every possible sample point in Ω. As a consequence, the sum of the probabilities Pr[X = a] over all possible values of a is exactly. So when we sum up the probabilities of the events X = a, we are really summing up the probabilities of all the sample points. Example: The binomial Distribution: This is one of the most important distributions in probability. It can be defined in terms of a coin-tossing experiment. Consider n independent tosses of a biased coin with Heads probability p. Each sample point is a sequence of tosses. For example, when n = 3, the sample space Ω is {HHH,HHT,HT H,HT T,T HH,T HT,T T H,T T T }. Let X be the number of Heads. Note that this is a function on the sample space: for each sample point ω, Xω) is the number of Heads in ω. For example, XT HH) = 2 To compute the distribution of X, we first enumerate the possible values X can take on. They are simply 0,,..., n. Then we compute the probability CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 3

4 Figure 3: The binomial distributions for two choices of n, p). of each event X = i for i = 0,...,n. The probability of the event X = i is the sum of the probabilities of all the sample points with i Heads. Any such sample point has a probability p i p) n i. There are exactly ) n i of these sample points. So ) n Pr[X = i] = p i p) n i i = 0,,...n ) i This is the binomial distribution with parameter n and p. A random variable with this distribution is called a binomial random variable for brevity, we will say X Binn, p)). An example of a binomial distribution is shown in Figure 3. Although we define the binomial distribution in terms of an experiment involving tossing coins, this distribution is useful for modeling many real-world problems. Consider for example the error correction problem studied in Note 7. Recall that we wanted to encode n packets into n + k packets such that the recipient can reconstruct the original n packets from any n packets received. But in practice, the number of packet losses is random, so how do we choose k, the amount of redundancy? If we model each packet getting lost with probability p and the losses are independent, then if we transmit n + k packets, the number of packets received is a random variable X and X Binn + k, p). We are tossing a coin n + k times, and each coin turns out to be a Head packet received ) with probability p). So the probability that of successful decoding the original data is: Pr[X n] = n+k i=n n + k i ) p) i p n+k i. We can choose k such that this probability is no less than, say, Expectation The distribution of a r.v. contains all the probabilistic information about the r.v. In most applications, however, the complete distribution of a r.v. is very hard to calculate: for example, suppose we go back to our original question with 20 students. In principle, we d have to enumerate 20! sample points, compute the value of X at each one, and count the number of points at which X takes on each of its possible values! though in practice we could streamline this calculation quite a bit). Moreover, even when we can compute the complete distribution of a r.v., it is often not very informative. CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 4

5 For these reasons, we seek to compress the distribution into a more compact, convenient form that is also easier to compute. The most widely used such form is the expectation or mean or average) of the r.v. Definition 3.3 expectation): The expectation of a discrete random variable X is defined as EX) = a Pr[X = a], a A where the sum is over all possible values taken by the r.v. For our running permutation example, the expectation is EX) = 0 ) + ) ) = =. I.e., the expected number of fixed points in a permutation of three items is exactly. The expectation can be seen in some sense as a typical value of the r.v. though note that it may not actually be a value that the r.v. ever takes on). The question of how typical the expectation is for a given r.v. is a very important one that we shall return to in a later lecture. Here are some simple examples of expectations.. Single die. Throw one fair die. Let X be the number that comes up. Then X takes on values,2,...,6 each with probability 6, so EX) = ) = 6 6 = 7 2. Note that X never actually takes on its expected value Two dice. Throw two fair dice. Let X be the sum of their scores. Then the distribution of X is a Pr[X = a] 8 2 The expectation is therefore EX) = 2 ) + 3 ) + 4 ) ) = Roulette. A roulette wheel is spun. You bet \$ on Black. If a black number comes up, you receive your stake plus \$; otherwise you lose your stake. Let X be your net winnings in one game. Then X can take on the values + and, and Pr[X = ] = , Pr[X = ] = 38. [Recall that a roulette wheel has 38 slots: the numbers,2,...,, half of which are red and half black, plus 0 and 00, which are green.] Thus EX) = 8 ) + 20 ) = ; i.e., you expect to lose about a nickel per game. Notice how the zeros tip the balance in favor of the casino! CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 5

6 Linearity of expectation So far, we ve computed expectations by brute force: i.e., we have written down the whole distribution and then added up the contributions for all possible values of the r.v. The real power of expectations is that in many real-life examples they can be computed much more easily using a simple shortcut. The shortcut is the following: Theorem 3.: For any two random variables X and Y on the same probability space, we have EX +Y ) = EX) + EY ). Also, for any constant c, we have EcX) = cex). Proof: To make the proof easier, we will first rewrite the definition of expectation in a more convenient form. Recall from Definition 3.3 that EX) = a Pr[X = a]. a A Let s look at one term a Pr[X = a] in the above sum. Notice that Pr[X = a], by definition, is the sum of Pr[ω] over those sample points ω for which Xω) = a. And we know that every sample point ω Ω is in exactly one of these events X = a. This means we can write out the above definition in a more long-winded form as EX) = Xω) Pr[ω]. 2) ω Ω This equivalent definition of expectation will make the present proof much easier though it is usually less convenient for actual calculations). Now let s write out EX +Y ) using equation 2). EX +Y ) = ω Ω X +Y )ω) Pr[ω] = ω Ω Xω) +Y ω)) Pr[ω] ) ) = ω Ω Xω) Pr[ω] + ω Ω Y ω) Pr[ω] = EX) + EY ). In the last step, we used equation 2) twice. This completes the proof of the first equality. The proof of the second equality is much simpler and is left as an exercise. Theorem 3. is very powerful: it says that the expectation of a sum of r.v. s is the sum of their expectations, with no assumptions about the r.v. s. We can use Theorem 3. to conclude things like E3X 5Y ) = 3EX) 5EY ). This property is known as linearity of expectation. Important caveat: Theorem 3. doesnot say that EXY ) = EX)EY ), or that E X ) = EX) etc. These claims are not true in general. It is only sums and differences and constant multiples of random variables that behave so nicely. Now let s see some examples of Theorem 3. in action. 4. Two dice again. Here s a much less painful way of computing EX), where X is the sum of the scores of the two dice. Note that X = X +X 2, where X i is the score on die i. We know from example above that EX ) = EX 2 ) = 7 2. So by Theorem 3. we have EX) = EX ) + EX 2 ) = 7. CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 6

8 More generally, the expected number of Heads in n tosses of a fair coin is n 2. And in n tosses of a biased coin with Heads probability p, it is np why?). So the expectation of a r.v. X Binn, p) is np. Note that it would have been harder to reach the same conclusion by computing this directly from definition of expectation. 8. Balls and bins. Throw m balls into n bins. Let the r.v. X be the number of balls that land in the first bin. Then X behaves exactly like the number of Heads in n tosses of a biased coin, with Heads probability n why?). So from example 7 we get EX) = m n. In the special case m = n, the expected number of balls in any bin is. If we wanted to compute this directly from the distribution of X, we d get into a messy calculation involving binomial coefficients, a bit like the load balancing example in the previous lecture note. Here s another example on the same sample space. Let the r.v. Y be the number of empty bins. The distribution of Y is horrible to contemplate: to get a feel for this, you might like to write it down for m = n = 3 3 balls, 3 bins). However, computing the expectation EY ) is a piece of cake using Theorem 3.. As usual, let s write Y = Y +Y 2 + +Y n, 4) where Y i is the indicator r.v. of the event bin i is empty. Again as usual, the expectation of Y i is easy: EY i ) = Pr[Y i = ] = Pr[bin i is empty] = m ; n) recall that we computed this probability quite easily) in an earlier lecture. Applying Theorem 3. to 4) we therefore have n EY ) = EY i ) = n m, n) a very simple formula, very easily derived. i= Let s see how it behaves in the special case m = n same number of balls as bins). In this case we get EY ) = n n )n. Now the quantity n )n can be approximated for large enough values of n) by the number e.2 So we see that EY ) n 0.8n as n. e The bottom line is that, if we throw say) 000 balls into 000 bins, the expected number of empty bins is about 8. 2 More generally, it is a standard fact that for any constant c, + n c )n e c as n. We just used this fact in the special case c =. The approximation is actually very good even for quite small values of n try it yourself! E.g., for n = 20 we already get n )n =0.358, which is very close to e = The approximation gets better and better for larger n. CS 70, Fall 2009, Note 3 8

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