Monthly Archives: July 2014

But It’s More Scientific!

Some people understand how scientists use numbers. Some simply like the cachet of lots of digits.

I wish I had a pointer to the article, but it was in a computer industry trade publication on-line.

A figure of 52.4% was claimed for something. This is stating the value to three significant digits. Was the sample really that large?

The author noted that that meant that there were at least 262 of the somethings in the sample. He apparently recognised that 524 / 1000 could be reduced to 262 / 500, but missed that it could be further reduced to 131 / 250.

And that is not all. Someone noted in the comments to the article that 11 / 21 rounded to three decimal places is 52.4%. It does not look nearly as impressive now, does it?

But it would never do to say “About half …” when one can whip out something like 52.4%.

How to lie with statistics.

Puzzle #62: Minor Puzzles

A couple of minor puzzles this week:

1) When playing solitaire, there is a possibility that all seven initial face-up cards will be the same colour. What is the probability of this?

2) Congratulations on organising the world’s first 10,000-player Russian Roulette tournament. 100 of the players successfully played 25 rounds. Would you follow such a person’s tips on how to play Russian Roulette? Why or why not?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, August 13, 2014> at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Bad Design

I recently had a iron fail. The power cord shorted. I had noted the bad design only after I got the iron and had been waiting for this. When it happened, I quickly unplugged the iron.

The bad design was that when the iron was set down in the upright position, it was resting partly on the power cord. Eventually, the power cord fatigued at that point, and I saw a flash.

My new iron does not have this same design flaw. (You can bet that I checked!)

My first iron lasted about fourteen years. Any after that have lasted maybe five years at most. I will not be a repeat customer for a badly-designed product, but sometimes, it is hard to find something that will last and know that that is what one is getting.

Odd Language #58: Punctuation Counts!

Consider the following sentence which comes from http://www.sandraandwoo.com/2014/06/26/0593-buffalo-buffalo/:

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Woo is quite pleased with himself until Sandy replies:

Wouldn’t the sentence “I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and and and and and Chips in my Fish-and-Chips sign” have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?

The issue: One can make very complex sentences in English, and omitting punctuation can make a sentence very difficult to follow.

Puzzle #61: Dates

Consider dates of the form YY-MM-DD hh:mm. Some puzzles are about such dates containing one of each digit 0 to 9. This isn’t one of them. Let’s go the other way. In 2011, there was the date 11-11-11 11:11. That is using only one of the digits.

How about two? Call them a and b, and let a be less than b. How many pairs (a, b) are there where there is at least one valid date of the form YY-MM-DD hh:mm containing at least one of each of a and b, and what are those pairs? Since hh can be expressed as 1 to 12 or 0 to 23, answer for both possibilities.

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #59 Solution: Blocks

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

Celebrate the Misplaced Holiday

This Sunday (July 20, 2014) will be B.C. Day, the real B.C. Day. Won’t you join me in celebrating when British Columbia joined Canada (July 20, 1871)?

What? You say you want to wait until Monday, August 4 when it is officially B.C. Day? Sigh! Hmmph!

It would have never done to have the three summer holiday days (Canada Day, B.C. Day, and Labour Day) unequally spaced, eh?