12 November 2010

The value of Mathematics (and mathematicians)

I knew there had to be a good reason why God created math (beyond calculating my age and my taxes).

The Carnival cruise line had a serious fire on board one of their cruise ships that left the ship aimlessly floating with no power. Hence, no warm food, no showers, no lights, etc. The folks on the ship had to stay on it for about three days with the navy helicoptering in emergency rations such as spam. To compensate the passengers for their "cruise from hell," as some malcontents are calling it, Carnival has offered them free passage on any cruise of their choice. Some are a bit leery of talking the cruise line up on the offer.

But one guy explains, with impeccable logic,
"I'm a math person. What are the chances this would happen twice to the same person? I'm going with the odds. We're from Vegas. We're coming back."

Since I like logic, and can at least remember what it is like, I think this is a good use of math.

of course, this theory is tested by the fact that John Derbyshire is a mathematician. Nor does it take account of the fact, as math people assure me, that his chances of getting stranded a second time are exactly the same as getting stranded the first time.



At 18 November, 2010 15:42, Anonymous Joey Sobrino said...

Have you ever heard of the Monte Hall problem?


At 18 November, 2010 23:06, Blogger Clemens said...


And how do you know who Monte Hall is?

At 21 November, 2010 22:18, Anonymous Joey Sobrino said...

^I don't know really...I think I was a 56 year old man in my past life.

I get it at work all the time people assumed I did know anything about Laugh-in, Beverly Hillbillies and something else that alludes me at the moment.

Anyhow the Monte Hall problem is that you have three doors. You pick Door #2.

Monte Hall knowing what is behind what door, shows you the rooster behind door #3.

Now he asks, "Want to change your answer?"

At first blush it seems simple enough. The odds are 1/3 regardless so keep your answer. Not quite.

The odds are 1/3 for your original guess and 1/2 for Door #1.

A way of thinking about this that sort of makes sense is to exaggerate the problem.

Let's say there were 1 million doors. You pick door #120221, Monte Hall shows you useless farm animals for all doors but #120221 and #872882. Do you want to change your answer? Heck yeah! You had a one and a million change with your first answer, the #872882 is a virtual lock to be the grand prize.



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