math and shakespeare

I was at a dinner party not too long ago and one of the other attendees did something very interesting … he chastised one of the guests for not really knowing Shakespeare.   Then, a few minutes later, this same chastiser was bragging about how little he cared for math and science — he said other people could focus on that.

Is Shakespeare really more important than math and science?

Too often people think what they know is REALLY important and what their ignorant of is something easily done by others.

As the dinner progressed, I asked a question to the other nine guests: you roll 5 dice, what is the probability of getting at least one four.   Turns out, no one knew.   Now granted, it is actually a hard question for someone that hasn’t studied probability … the smattering of Stanford B-school and Harvard Law School grads hadn’t studied math and statistics in college like I had.   And one can get through life fine without knowing simple probability … just like many get through life without knowing Shakespeare.   

Whether it is the Monty Hall problem or the Birthday problem, people have a real lack of understand of their chance of something.   Maybe that explains gambling.   Or playing credit card roulette.   it seems math and science is quite important for any learned person to master.

Now I don’t know much about Shakespeare … but it isn’t something I brag about.   In fact, I see that as one of my deficiencies that I’m not proud of.   So I get taken aback when people feel that what they know is so much more important than what they don’t know.   

2 thoughts on “math and shakespeare

  1. peter caputa

    I’d say that chastising someone for not knowing something is more ignorant than not knowing something.
    Imagine his attitude about something he doesn’t know he doesn’t know?

  2. Kerim

    Probability was one of my favorite classes… If I remember my stuff correctly, the answer to your problem should be 1-(((1-(1/6))^5)). In other words, the likelihood that none of the dice are “four”, subtracted from 1. So it is about 59.8%.


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