Thursday, November 1, 2012

Probability questions from "Man from the South"

The Man from the South (see earlier post) and the American Boy negotiate terms and make a bet: If the American Boy lights his lighter 10 times in a row he gets Man from the South's Cadillac. If the lighter fails to light during one of those 10 attempts Man from the South immediately cuts off American Boy's left pinky, and keeps it.

Think about the following questions in any order. You can make any assumptions, come up with an approximation, an estimate, a minimum or maximum.

Q1. What does American Boy think is the probability of his lighter lighting during any single attempt?

Q2. How many fingers to a Cadillac?

After the eighth successful attempt, Man from the South's wife surprises them and ends the game. She sends American Boy away empty handed.

Q3. How should he have been compensated, if at all?

Q4. Were there to have been a 9th attempt, and were American Boy to have failed in it, what would he have lost?

The Man from the South's wife explains that he has lost eleven cars and taken forty-seven fingers.

Q5. What does Man from the South think is the probability that American Boy's lighter will light during a single attempt?

Q6. How many fingers to a Cadillac does Man from the South figure?

Q7. Do your answers to Q3 and Q4 change?

I don't necessarily have answers to all the questions, but here they are.

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