On the occasion of his receiving second Nobel prize, Dr. Linus Pauling, the chemist, remarked that, while the chances of any person in the world receiving his first Nobel prize were one in several billion (the population of the world), the chances of receiving the second Nobel prize were one in several hundred (the total number of living people who had received the prize in the past) and that therefore it was less remarkable to receive one's second prize than one's first.
What is the flaw in Professor Pauling's joke?
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Thursday, January 03, 2008
Flawed Nobel Prize
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The flaw is that he is assuming that the only people eligible for the award when he received his 2nd were the previous winners. If he were only in competition with the other winners, then he would be correct, but I think that he probably was in competition with the whole world, thus making the likelihood of winning a second time 1/1000000000 X 1/1000000000 (or really, really small)ReplyDelete
Anonymous got it right, as long as you assume winning the second time is independent of winning the first time.ReplyDelete
I still think the joke is funny, though.