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Let’s Make a Deal with Paul the Octopus

As summer reaches its midpoint, we come to the end of another rousing year of World Cup soccer. As with any international sporting event, fans all over the world have undoubtedly had their share of ups and downs. Of all the countries in this year’s tournament, however, I think Germany may be receiving the most attention, for even though they didn’t make it into the finals, the Germans have one thing no other country has: a precognitive octopus.

At least, that is what the media would have us believe. For the past several weeks, Paul the Octopus has captured the hearts, minds, and stomachs of people around the world. He’s a charming octopus, to be sure, but it isn’t his good looks that have gotten him this far. Instead, it’s his seeming ability to correctly predict the outcome of soccer matches. As time has gone on and Paul’s predictions have . . . → Read More: Let’s Make a Deal with Paul the Octopus

A New Birthday Problem

Last week, Slashdot posted an interesting link to a problem posed at the most recent Gathering 4 Gardner, a mathematical (or perhaps I should say mathemagical) convention created in honor of the late Martin Gardner. The question, posed by Gary Foshee, is as follows: you have a friend with two children, one of whom is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability that the other child is a boy?

Forget about the Tuesday fact for a moment – if you have a friend with two children, one of whom is a boy, what is the probability that the other child is a boy? You might expect that the answer should be 50%, since the sex of one child shouldn’t affect the sex of the other. But this is not quite right, because you’re not told whether the boy is the older or younger child.

There are only . . . → Read More: A New Birthday Problem