Wait For It… a blog by Andy Ross

Margin of Error

Posted on February 25, 2011

This blog post has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

Which, I guess would mean that that number, itself, could be wrong. If it's three percentage points in error of its percentage of error, then this blog post could have a margin of error as large as 6% or as little as 0%, which would mean it was absolutely correct.

And, if we assume that it's absolutely correct that it has a 6% chance of being wrong about its 6% margin of error, than six times six is a 36%. Wow, this blog post has a possibility of being totally wrong a full one-third of the time!

I'm sorry, I think I got my math wrong. I was never so good at numbers. When I said "possibility" I should have said "probability." because, we're dealing with probabilities, right?

That means this post is probably wrong 36% of the time. So, let's say that we test this blog three times, and each time it's one-third wrong. One-third times three is 100%. This blog post is probably totally wrong 100% of the time.

Or, 0% wrong, which is absolutely right. Both are equally valid possibilities/probabilities.

So, how can we tell if this blog post is 100% right or 100% wrong? Well, the only way is to ask one possibility what the other possibility would say and then assume the opposite.

See, if you asked the blog post that was right 100% of the time---let’s call that Post A---what the blog post that was wrong 100% of the time---Post B---would say… Let me start over.

Post A asks Post B if it’s correct, and Post A says that Post B said no. Well, if Post B is always wrong, Post B is wrong about it being wrong, which makes it right. But, then that makes Post A wrong about Post B being… I’m getting a really bad headache here. Does anyone have any ibuprofen?

Anyway, I can’t be sure, but I think this blog post is trying to create a paradox that would destroy the Space/Time Continuum. But, I think I can stop it by---

[BOOOOOOOMMMMM … pfizzzzle… pop!]

Oh shit, existence ended. Sorry, guys.


Types of People

Posted on October 27, 2010

There are only two types of people in the world—cat people or dog people.

Cat people like cats for their independence and willingness to poop in a box. Dog people like dogs for their adoration and ability  to clean up dropped food. That’s it. Those are the two types of people.

I guess there is a third type of person—the kind who likes both cats and dogs. Someone who enjoys a box full of poop in their closet and a living Roomba. So, then there are only three types of people in the world.

Wait, I just thought of something. There are probably some people out there who don’t like either cats or dogs. That makes sense, right? Logically? That would mean there are four types of people in the world—cat, dog, cat and dog, neither cat nor dog.

What about turtles, though? Somebody out there likes turtles instead of cats or dogs. Is that a sub-category of the neither-cat-nor-dog group? Oh man, this is getting complicated. Because, there’s probably someone who likes turtles and cats but not dogs.  If that’s a sub-category of the cats-only group, then it’s weird that those two sub-categories are diverging. Both people, after all, enjoy turtles. Probably for their little turtle-like faces.

I need to get a pencil and paper. Give me a minute…

Alright, I’m back. I’ve done some preliminary calculations. It seems like there’s an infinite number of types of people in the world. I know that may sound shocking, but the math all works out.

That would mean there are an infinite number of people in the world, one for each type of person. How can all those people fit on one planet? I’ve come up with a theory. It’s that there are both people and anti-people, all existing across multiple dimensions within the same space.

Here, I’ve drawn a diagram … No, not that. That’s a turtle wearing a hat.

Who should I call about this breakthrough finding? Harvard? The Air Force? The world needs to know about these turtle-loving anti-people before it’s too late.



Mathemagician’s Assistant

Posted on October 25, 2010

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, which covers the three years I spent as a Las Vegas mathemagician’s assistant. It’s called A Boy Cut in Equal Halves. Enjoy:

The Great Nerdkin called me into his dressing room to help him with his pocket protector. The pocket protector is what is known in the backstage world of mathemagic as a “tap.” A tiny radio receiver in the device picks up equation results and “taps” lightly against the mathemagician’s chest, giving him the answer. Nerdkin’s tap had gotten jostled and was stuck in base 12.

The entire grand finale depended on that tap. Without it, The Great Nerdkin was just another street hustling math shark, pulling cube roots out of the air for quarters. The finale is what got him out of the dank Bar Mitzvahs and into the big money. Tech conference money.

We worked on fixing the tap for what seemed like hours, but turned out to be only 1/18th of an hour. Curtain was fast approaching, and no mathemagician is ever late for a show. It implies that you’re bad with numbers.

The Great Nerdkin flung the pocket protector against the mirror and said, “We’re switching over to Bertrand’s Postulate.”

It was a risky move. We’d never successfully pulled off Betrand’s Postulate. It was an untested math trick that applied Chebysev’s proof of Joseph Betrand’s conjecture that there is at least one prime between n and 2n − 2 for every n > 3. If it went wrong, someone could get hurt. Probably me.

“We’ll need a plant in the audience to throw out a Ramanujan prime,” I said, nervously.

“Get Rummy,” roared Nerdkin.

Rummy was former Applied Number Theory professor who’d turned to alcohol when one of his finite fields turned out to be infinite. He’d hang out at the stage door hoping to sell mathemagicians his elliptic curve cryptosystem tricks. He had his moments of lucidity, but only between drinks eight and eleven.

I was already wearing my sequined leotard for the Floating Variable trick. I’d have change into my civilian clothes to reach Rummy before the end of the first act, and then I’d have to get back in time to apply my fake moustache.

Could I make it? Would we be able to pull of the Postulate? I calculated my odds within four decimal points, and they didn’t look good…


Powers of Ten

Posted on August 31, 2010

Powers of Ten

Once you get into very large numbers, not everyone knows the proper nomenclature. Here's a quick guide to huge numbers. It goes:












Super Brazilian


Duo Deca Gabillion





Bauer's Number (One followed by a mile of zeroes typed in 12-pt Courier)

Ten to the Power of Omni-Dingle




Infinity Plus One

Infinity Times Infinity with a Cherry on Top, No Touchbacks