Math 19b, Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics, Spring, 2011

Richard Feynman

The following quote of Richard Feynman summarizes well a common fallacy of probability. Of course, it is ment to be a joke, but it happens again and again that we fall into such a trap.

If we do a scientific experiment, we know one particular experiment. Since this experiment is unlikely to happen in the pool of all experiments, we conclude that it is something special. That we have discovered something amazing.

A recent example shows this.
"You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!"