Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Posts in an attempt to foster an appreciation for mathematics. (Talk about an uphill battle.)


Image courtesy: NASA's Marshal Space Flight Center


P is for probability. I demonstrated how to calculate probability from odds in yesterday's blog, so today I'm keeping things light. It's Saturday after all. So here's a fun little quiz on the probability of some unlikely events:

Which is more likely?

1. Being struck by lightening or attacked by a shark? ___________

2. Being crushed to death by a vending machine or becoming President of the United States? ____

3. Driving into a deer--in Hawaii vs. having conjoined twins? ___________

I'll just hum Dumb Ways To Die while you consider these scintillating questions. (Not that all of these events necessarily imply death, mind you.)

Okay, ready for the answers?

1. The odds you will be struck by lightning sometime in your life: 1 in 12,000. (CNN)

Odds of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million. (Discovery News)

Lightning storms are much more dangerous than sharks. According to the internet, about 5 people are killed by sharks in a year, while 100 million sharks are killed by people annually. Who's scary? We are.

2. Odds of being crushed to death by a vending machine: 1 in 112 million (Discovery News)

Odds of becoming President of the US: 1 in 10 million (Source)

For some reason, this seems counterintuitive. I guess it's because the use and abuse of vending machines involves millions of people every second of every day, while one person is elected President once every four years in the US. Despite the low odds, please don't rock one of these machines if your candy bar doesn't drop. Around 13 people die this way each year. But do rock the vote.

3. Odds of hitting a deer while driving in Hawaii: 1 in 6267 (Source)

Odds of having conjoined twins: 1 in 200,000 (Source)

This might be the easiest to get correct even if you weren't aware that Hawaii has deer. These animals were introduced in the 1860s as a gift from Hong Kong. Since then they have made their way to several of the islands, destroying vegetation as they go. (Source)

Do you have phobias about unlikely events such as sharks, plane crashes, or fatal spider bites? Do the statistics make you feel any better?




29 comments:

  1. My house has been struck by lightning twice!. Having spent 20+ years in politics I have no interest in 'being' anything. As for deer, drop by any day and help me shoo them out of my yard. Better yet, run one down on your way here, but be sure you are driving a tank. As for the aliens, sometimes I think my boys were aliens in their teens.

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    1. I wouldn't want to destroy a perfectly good tank. ;)

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  2. This is very interesting!!! Don't get me started on my phobias ;)

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  3. I missed the president one. I really would think more people would rock a vending machine to the point of it falling on them.

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  4. I got two right. I also missed the president one. I thought those odds would've been greater. Fun post today. :)

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  5. It’s the lightening that frightens me the most. Mother nature can be so cranky.
    I missed two of them. The president one. Like you said counterintuitive.
    My thought process on the Hawaii one was “what if there were no deer, then of course…well you get it.

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  6. That was really fun to learn! I definitely won't be kicking any vending machines...

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  7. I go the lightening vs. shark correct. I struck out on the vending machine vs. president. I thought president was more likely, then second guessed myself when I though of how abusive people become with the machines when they don't vend. On the Hawaii thing, I knew conjoined twins was rare.and in East Texas everyone knows someone who has hit a deer, but I didn't think Hawaii had any naturally, and didn't know anyone gifted them with some, so the Chinese ruined that one for me. That means I got one out of three. I had an aunt that got hit by lightening while washing dishes at her sink. The lightening hit a tree outside, and went through the roots that were wrapped around pipes and busted through her sink. Burned off some hair and her eyebrows. But she made a full recovery.

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  8. It's crazy how unlikely it is to get attacked by a shark, yet people are still terrified of them.

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  9. I actually thought the odds of getting crushed by a vending machine were higher than becoming president. I'm glad I was wrong!

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  10. I actually thought the odds of getting crushed by a vending machine were higher than becoming president. I'm glad I was wrong!

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  11. Having just left Hawaii after four years, I nailed that question (but never struck a deer:) and I got the lightening one, too... for the same reason.. but I was convinced I'd get the vending one correct, too....

    I'm off to vent on a vending machine.

    [I'm Mark Koopmans, and I approve of this message.]

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  12. The sharks don't stand a chance against us, do they?

    My kid watches that Dumb Ways to Die video... now it's stuck in my head. Ack!

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    1. Sorry Nick. At least it's not "Let it Go".

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  13. This was interesting! Living in a household that has hit four deer while driving over the past nine months, Hawaii sounds like a great place to live.

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  14. Very interesting examples of odds, love how you explain things so even us math challenged people get it.

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  15. I'd heard lightning strikes were very probably, I think the guy who holds the record is a park ranger who's been hit 7 times.

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    1. I can't believe he didn't switch jobs after the first 3 or so!

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  16. I knew that about vending machines. And still I see people rocking them over a dollar bag of chips that gets stuck.

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  17. I can believe the lightning one. Interesting odds indeed. Thanks earlier this week for the Liebster - I appreciate it. I'll try to do it in May. Here's to next weeks A to Z. All fun!

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  18. Like so many other commenters, I was surprised that you have a better chance of being Pres...than a vending machine death. But then of course if you eat the food out of a vending machine with frequency, I bet the odds change...

    My greatest phobia? Being devoured by a spider. Yeah, I know, maybe it is not possible except in Harry Potter movies. :) -- Jeri (from storytellingmatters)

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