A statistics professor who travels a lot was concerned about the possibility of a bomb onboard his plane. He determined the probability of this and found it to be low but not low enough for him. So now he always travels with a bomb in his suitcase. He reasons that the probability of two bombs being onboard would be infinitesimal.
Do you think he has really reduced the risk?
Even those who aren’t well versed with the basic concepts of probability can say that the professor’s logic seems absurd.
Well, the bomb riddle is a famous joke among mathematicians. Nevertheless, it’s a thought provoking joke.
So to help you think about the riddle, let’s explore another related thought experiment.
A man wakes up in the middle of the night with a splitting headache. He remembers that there are few aspirin bottles in the bathroom. He dizzily stumbles into his bathroom to grab one of the four bottles in the dark and pops a pill from that bottle. An hour later, instead of getting relief from headache, he starts feeling a terrible nausea. Suddenly he realizes that only three of the four bottles in the bathroom contained aspirin and the fourth bottle contained poison.
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