Customer J.M. emailed this morning asking when (if ever) our Bilibin Dragon puzzle would be back in stock. Yesterday, this was a "random" variable - there was some probability (say 1/4) that we would ever re-stock that puzzle, and probability 3/4 that we would never re-stock it.
But the very fact that J.M. asked about it changed the probabilities, we're now 9/10 likely to re-stock the Bilibin Dragon puzzle (the 1/10 uncertainty now is whether we can find the dang prints).
There must be a name for this effect when asking about a random variable changes the probabilities?
It seems like a common effect, for example, the very act of asking your wife, "Are we going to put a puzzle out when the in-laws come over?" certainly ups the chances of doing just that.
It's a bit like the Schrodinger Cat paradox in quantum mechanics, where there is a cat in a box and there's some probability that it's alive or dead until you open the box - and opening the box is like flipping the coin - suddenly the cat is alive or dead. That's called the Observer Effect - that observing the random variable changes the probabilities (in the poor cat's case, changes the probability to be either definitely alive or dead. (In quantum mechanics, this observer effect applies to photons, which are the tiniest unit of light).
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of an official name for this or have a good suggestion!