Probability

  • by Jasper D. Memory (1935 - )

    A hypochondriac at heart, he thought
    (Though symptom free) he had a dire disease,
    And after fruitless weeks of worry, sought
    Some test to take to set his mind at ease.

    He forthwith found one that would do the trick,
    And accurate (at oh point nine) to tell
    Those having the disease that they were sick,
    And just the same, the well that they were well.

    One crucial point he failed to note was this:
    That of a hundred like him, only one
    Had the disease, and this slip made him miss
    The implication when the test was done

    And positive! therefore, consumed with dread,
    And now convinced his blackest fears were right
    (By faulty logic fatally misled),
    He shattered silence that calm summer night.

  • by Eveline Pye

    Like a tracker, I smell the earth
    on my fingers, listen for the slightest
    echo as I stare out at a world
    where bell-shaped curves loom

    as mountains and negative exponentials
    foretell dangerous descents, imminent
    disaster. All around, cliff edges crash
    down to restless seas while a solitary

    outlier shines in the southern sky: a freak
    of random sampling or a guiding light?
    Are others buried deep, confounded
    by experimental design?  On my path,

    a decision tree, so many branches
    spring from its trunk, so many choices.

  • (for Sally Clark 1964 – 2007)
    by Eveline Pye

    You, Sally Clark, solicitor,
    discover your son, Christopher
    dead in his Moses basket. Harry, born
    a year later, dies in his bouncy chair.

    Paediatrician for the crown,
    Sir Roy Meadow, tells the jury
    two cot deaths in the same family
    would occur only once in a century.

    Odds are one in seventy-three million,
    lower than the lottery, beyond all
    reasonable doubt. An easy decision:
    You must be guilty.

    At Styal Prison, the horde screams,
    Here's the nonce! Die woman, die!
    They bang on the door, clamber up,
    gawp as you cringe in a holding cell.

    At the second appeal, your body
    is free but your mind has crumpled.
    You drink until you die, 
    your third son, left without a mother.

    I tell this story to my medical students,
    show death by natural causes
    was more likely than murder.
    Silence

  • Q: How does a statistics department chair relay news about unforeseen policy changes?

    A: With a memorandom!

    Larry Lesser

  • How did the statistics student respond after his locker was broken into at school and his belongings scattered?

    He restored order by replacing his combination lock with a permutation lock!

    Judah Lesser

  • Why did the mutually exclusive events break up?

    They had nothing in common.

  • Chance. Stupid, dumb, blind chance. Just a part of the strange mechanism of the world, with its fits and coughs and starts and random collisions.

    Lauren Oliver (1982 - )

  • May the odds be ever in your favor!

    Suzanne Collins (1962 - )

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