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Topic: Conditional Probability Question
Replies: 49   Last Post: Oct 18, 2001 2:34 PM

 Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
 Randy Poe Posts: 1,799 Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Conditional Probability Question
Posted: Sep 25, 2001 1:50 PM

Aaron Davies wrote:
>
> Hi, I'm a senior at Columbia University majoring in Computer
> Engineering, and I'm taking my first course on probability this
> semester. The following problem came up in class during the past two
> sessions and was the subject of much debate.
>
> There is a bucket containing 100 machine parts, one of which is known to
> be defective. You draw parts from the bucket one at a time, examining
> them for the defect, and then set them aside (ie no replacement). What
> is the probability that the i-th part you examine will be defective?
>
> The professor is of the opinion that the probability is always 1/100 and
> is thus independant of i. Most of the students are of the opinion that
> it is 1/(101-i). Which is correct? Yesterday, the professor presented
> some math he'd worked out to support his answer; if anyone's interested,
> I'll post that too.

It could be a question of what probability is being asked
for. Here is the question you posed:

> What is the probability that the i-th part you examine
> will be defective?

Interpretation #1: I pull all of the parts out of the
bucket and lay them down in a row. What is the probability
that the defective part is the i-th one in the row?
Answer: 1/100. Exactly 1/100 of all possible arrangements
have the bad part in position i.

Interpretation #2: Given that I have already pulled out
(i-1) parts and found them to be good, what is
the probability that the next part is bad? In that
case, the answer is 1/(100 - (i-1)) = 1/(101-i).

Note that the second one is a conditional probability,
and only counts from among those experiments in
which you have already found (i-1) good parts.
I'd vote with your professor, since that is the
unconditional probability from among all testing
scenarios.

You would not be the first person to be confused
about when to use a conditional probability. There
are some particularly devious "paradoxes" based
on conditional probability. Some of them lead to
quite heated debate here.

- Randy

Date Subject Author
9/25/01 Aaron Davies
9/25/01 Randy Poe
9/25/01 Aaron Davies
9/26/01 Kevin Foltinek
9/26/01 mensanator
9/27/01 Kevin Foltinek
9/27/01 Aaron Davies
9/27/01 mensanator
9/25/01 Steve Wright
9/25/01 Timothy E. Vaughan
9/26/01 Lionel Barnett
9/25/01 Virgil
9/25/01 Ray Vickson
9/25/01 mensanator
9/26/01 Virgil
9/26/01 mensanator
9/26/01 Virgil
9/27/01 mensanator
9/27/01 The Scarlet Manuka
9/27/01 mensanator
9/27/01 Virgil
9/27/01 Aaron Davies
9/28/01 mensanator
9/26/01 Ray Vickson
9/26/01 mensanator
9/27/01 Virgil
9/27/01 mensanator
9/27/01 mensanator
9/27/01 Virgil
9/28/01 mensanator
9/28/01 Virgil
9/28/01 David Lloyd-Jones
9/28/01 mensanator
9/29/01 David Lloyd-Jones
9/29/01 mensanator
9/29/01 David Lloyd-Jones
9/29/01 mensanator
9/29/01 David Lloyd-Jones
9/29/01 mensanator
9/29/01 Virgil
9/29/01 mensanator
9/29/01 Lynn Kurtz
9/27/01 Aaron Davies
9/27/01 mensanator
9/27/01 Virgil
10/17/01 Mike Mccarty Sr
10/18/01 Virgil
9/27/01 Randy Poe
9/25/01 mensanator