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Humanity's Life Span (Math Chat)

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Author:Frank Morgan, MAA Online
Description: Challenge: Estimate the life span of the human race. Answer: Al Zimmermann says with 80% confidence that we have between 100,000 and 10 million years to go. Perhaps another million years is the best guess. (By comparison, the dinosaurs reigned for over 100 million years.) Zimmermann assumes that the human race is a million years old and that as a random observer he can be 80% confident of being in the middle 80%, past the initial 10% and before the final 10%. If just before the final 10%, we'd have about 100,000 years to go. If just after the initial 10%, we'd have 10 million years to go. Zimmermann is using the approach of the celebrated Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III...

Levels: High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: Estimation, Probability

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