Brownian ratchets and Parrondo's games

Chaos. 2001 Sep;11(3):705-714. doi: 10.1063/1.1395623.


Parrondo's games present an apparently paradoxical situation where individually losing games can be combined to win. In this article we analyze the case of two coin tossing games. Game B is played with two biased coins and has state-dependent rules based on the player's current capital. Game B can exhibit detailed balance or even negative drift (i.e., loss), depending on the chosen parameters. Game A is played with a single biased coin that produces a loss or negative drift in capital. However, a winning expectation is achieved by randomly mixing A and B. One possible interpretation pictures game A as a source of "noise" that is rectified by game B to produce overall positive drift-as in a Brownian ratchet. Game B has a state-dependent rule that favors a losing coin, but when this state dependence is broken up by the noise introduced by game A, a winning coin is favored. In this article we find the parameter space in which the paradoxical effect occurs and carry out a winning rate analysis. The significance of Parrondo's games is that they are physically motivated and were originally derived by considering a Brownian ratchet-the combination of the games can be therefore considered as a discrete-time Brownian ratchet. We postulate the use of games of this type as a toy model for a number of physical and biological processes and raise a number of open questions for future research. (c) 2001 American Institute of Physics.