It’s a usual day at office..I’m absorbed in determining the source of error rate on a data communication link. Every time I repeat the same sequence of bits, error count reflected in the results varies so I’m not able to get to the root cause of the bug. I’m already puzzled with this issue and my friend enters the lab with another problem. The latter one is based on Probability.
As I’m an engineer by profession so there was always an inclination towards Mathematics. It may be owing to the fact that arriving to the solution for Maths problem is done systematically, through incremental steps. On the other hand, History or Biology questions demand long theoretical answers from us and more pathetic is that Life expects way beyond that. I thought solving the puzzle will refresh my mind as it was now getting tired of tracking uncorrelated patterns of bits on-screen.
The problem in hand is to calculate probability of meeting of two friends in a café between 1 to 2 p.m. and the condition being that one friend won’t wait for the other for more than fifteen minutes. Since there’re 4 slots of 15 minutes in an hour, so I knew that the key probability factor is ¼ and this factor is to be played upon to get to the final solution. I was right up to that point (mathematically) but then came the moment where I faltered. I got confused between the laws of Life and Maths. I went optimistic and took the wrong approach, trying to figure out what is the probability of two friends, eventually meeting each other, applying conditional probability rules and stuff. Whereas in life, for all inevitable outcomes, we all have that innate pessimistic view.
Throughout our lives, we’re engaged in continual process of learning, be it active or passive. We learn about so many laws, axioms, theorems pertaining to different subjects. The criteria to evaluate our success is based on how aptly we apply these rules to the questions posed in the exam. The same concept of evaluation is applicable to life and it’s in the state of Death where we finally cease to learn.
How I wish Life could have been as simple as a Maths puzzle! First you need to know different types of equations, then you have standard methods to solve them and voila, problem is solved! But here in case of this puzzle, what I did wrong was to pursue optimistic outlook which we should have for Life instead. The solution was in all based on the law of complementary events. Look it’s quite simple, either an event will happen or it won’t occur at all. For example, in a toss of coin, there’re 50-50 chances of getting either Head or Tail. It’s so unlike life, when an expected event doesn’t occur, it’s all writhed with intricacies of why, how, if and but. Not to mention, the anxiety, despair and emptiness that follows it, crippling the Peace of our mind for eons.
Coming back to the problem, let’s be pragmatic and consider the event wherein both friends fail to come within prescribed time limits, may be due to incessant traffic jam or non-seasonal rainfall and assume they don’t meet at all. If that Probability comes out, say P. Then, using the law of complementary events, the Probability of their meeting is 1-P definitely.
To sum up, I believe, down the line, somewhere facing complexities of Life, we tend to jumble the rules of Life and Maths. Life is beautiful when there’re emotions, expectations, optimism and Maths is beautiful as it works through numbers, absolute or expected values and logic! Next time, may be, I’ll remember to have a more positive attitude towards Life and simultaneously, be practical in Maths and beware of mingling the two. So folks, what about you?
P.S: If any Math wizard is interested to confirm the solution of the problem, is it 7/16 or 9/16🙃?