Intuition and Probability

An article that turned up in ScienceNews has tripped me out a bit. It’s a thought experiment on how seemingly unrelated data affects the odds in, um, odd ways.

I have two children, one of whom is a son born on a Tuesday. What is the probability that I have two boys?

Gary Foshee, a puzzle designer from Issaquah, Wash., posed this puzzle during his talk this past March at Gathering 4 Gardner, a convention of mathematicians, magicians and puzzle enthusiasts held biannually in Atlanta. The convention is inspired by Martin Gardner, the recreational mathematician, expositor and philosopher who died May 22 at age 95. Foshee’s riddle is a beautiful example of the kind of simple, surprising and sometimes controversial bits of mathematics that Gardner prized and shared with others.

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