Here in Texas, public universities are trying to figure out how they’re going to comply with a recently enacted state campus-carry law so that licensed handgun owners can bring their firearms to campus. A small sampling of local news articles and websites on this topic:
And in the midst of this debate, I found the opportunity for a mathematical wisecrack.
I’ve used this wisecrack in my probability class to great effect, as the joke pedagogically illustrates the important difference between and .
For what it’s worth, here’s the version of the joke as I first saw it (in the book Absolute Zero Gravity):
Then there was the statistician who hated to fly because he had nightmares about terrorists with bombs. Yes, he knew that it was a million to one chance, but that wasn’t good enough. So he took a lot of trains until he realized what he had to do.
Now, whenever he flies, he packs a bomb in his own suitcase. Hey, do you know what the odds are against an airplane carrying two bombs?
Two final notes:
- For the humor-impaired, I’m not referring to all gun owners as idiots. The only people I’m calling idiots are me and those that would slaughter innocent people (and these two sets are disjoint).
- Though it’s certainly an important issue, I have no interest in debating the wisdom of the campus-carry law on this blog. Rather, the point of this post was using current events to memorably illustrate mathematical ideas.