Maths People

The Inspection Paradox is everywhere

Airlines complain that they are losing money because too many flights are nearly empty. At the same time passengers complain that flying is miserable because planes are too full. They could both be right. When a flight is nearly empty, only a few passengers enjoy the extra space. But when a flight is full, many passengers feel the crunch.

Another example happens when you are waiting for public transportation. Busses and trains are supposed to arrive at constant intervals, but in practice some intervals are longer than others. With your luck, you might think you are more likely to arrive during a long interval. It turns out you are right: a random arrival is more likely to fall in a long interval because, well, it’s longer.

The Inspection Paradox is everywhere.


2014 Annual Report


From my annual report (generated by Warby Parker’s highly scientific annual report generator).

Actually pretty accurate.




Ever wondered what $1bn could buy you? Well actually this won’t be of much use to you – if, however, you wanted to know what 10, 20, 50, 100 or 3000 billion dollars could buy you then it might come in handy.

If these figures are accurate it’s slightly scary to think that one man has the money to save the Amazon twice over, and that the internet porn industry generates enough revenue to feed and educate every child on Earth.


The Drake Equation, reapplied

Peter Backus, has taken the Drake Equation (an equation formulated to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilisations in the Milky Way that we might come in to contact with), and reapplied it to estimate the likely success of his own amourous exploits:

While extraterrestrial civilizations may be rare, there is something that is seemingly rarer still: A girlfriend. For me. What might the approach employed in the estimation of the number of alien civilizations tell us about the number of potential girlfriends for me? A somewhat less scientific question, I admit, but one of substantial personal importance.



40% of all mammal species are rodents.