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What Are The Odd’s?

“Hi Mom,” Jeff, said to his mother when she answered her cell phone. “I figured I would call you since today in our statistics course the professor began teaching us about probability and you as a CPA you must understand that concept clearly.”


“Yes, Jeff, it’s a pretty easy concept to understand, his Mom replied.


I understand probability and the various examples our professor used to demonstrate the concept,” Jeff Inserted.


“What examples did he give you?” Jeff’s Mom asked.


“He started off with a simple, easy example, Jeff answered. “He flipped a coin and told us that if this coin was flipped a number of times, he used one-hundred, he said that the probability of the coin landing on heads would be fifty-per cent and tails, fifty per-cent.”


“So, far, he’s right, Jeff’s Mom stated.


“He then went on to explain the probability of occurrence of each ball used in a lotto game,’ Jeff stated. “You know like in Powerball”.


“I know,” she answered. “These are all relatively simple concepts to grasp. So, what don’t you understand?”


“What I don’t understand about probability is a situation that defies all odds, which Dad pointed out to me about ten years ago,” Jeff answered.


“And what is that? She cursorily asked.


“Well, you know how each electrical plug has two prongs at the end of the electrical cord you plug into the outlet, one larger than the other, Jeff started to explain. “Then why is it that on more than half the time when you attempt to plug the prong in, you get it backwards, that is you put the large end of the prong into the smaller outlet.”


“Great example, Jeff,” his Mom replied with excitement in her voice.


“So, to test my theory that the probability of plugging in the electrical cord correctly is not fifty percent as would be expected, my classmate, Troy, and I came back to my dorm room after class and we each plugged our computers in one-hundred times,” Jeff stated. “The result, Troy was successful plugging his cord in sixty-two percent of the time and I was successful plugging mind in sixty-nine percent of the time.  


“So, what’s your conclusion?” his Mom asked.


“My conclusion is that if you had an infinite amount of time to plug the cord in, it most likely would get plugged in fifty percent correctly and fifty percent incorrectly, Jeff stated.


“But as you know in life you don’t have infinite time,” his Mom stated.


“That’s precisely my point,” Jeff enthusiastically declared. “Probability should have time attached to it.”


“Good point, son,” his Mom agreed. “Here’s another example for your professor to study.”


“What’s that, Mom?”


“Ask your professor when you remove a dryer sheet from the dryer after it has been used, why is it that regardless of the distance you are holding the dryer sheet from the nearby garbage can, when you release the dryer sheet from your hand it misses the garbage can about seventy percent of the time?” his Mom asked. “Clearly, what are the odds,” she added.


“Speaking of what are the odds,” Jeff began.  I remember Dad telling us a story of him tossing a quarter into the cigar box that the newspaper vendor used outside his office building to collect the money for the newspaper and the quarter stood upright.”


“And you can ask your professor, not only about the odds of it happening once, but three times as I saw Dad one day drop some change on the floor in the supermarket and a penny stood upright,” his Mom announced. “And it happened a third time only about four months ago when Dad handed the vendor at the Vermont verses Wisconsin basketball game some change for the sodas he bought and a quarter slipped from the vendors hand and stood up-right on the counter, “she added.


Question to all students studying probability or to professors teaching probability, you’re comments on the likelihood of occurrence would be appreciated.


Written by R.D. Jenkins, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Stuff For Everyone®, a wholly owned subsidiary of Harper Jenkins Scobie Enterprises.

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