How Random Is Random?

This Chap is led to ask the question by his recent international travel experience, which involved TSA’s “Random” testing, of some sort, both departing and returning. And while the Chap was standing there watching his handbag being swabbed, he began to wonder — what are the odds that true “Random” testing would lead to two “Random” checks in a journey? Flattering though it may be for someone in the Gubmint to consider the Chap warrants additional scrutiny, the statistician in him got to wondering… Or to put it another way, at what point on encountering yet another request to “step to the side” might a Chap question the uniformed person’s assertion of “randomness”?

Just as a side note – my spell checker just suggested that uniformed was incorrectly spelt and suggested uninformed. This chap thinks that in many cases they might be synonyms?

To continue! Now, this Chap’s statistics are of a more specialized, psychological-type thing. Fortunately, the Other Chap, being a certified Math Whiz, may be presumed to have the Chops to figure this one out. We have every confidence. So, take it away, Maestro!

No pressure there then ….

No. None at all.

Have to see that this chap was immediately reminded of another chap, back in the 70s when hijacking was prevalent – including bombs on board. Turns out his knowledge of stats was – to say the least – rudimentary.

Go On

Well, I wasn’t intending to stop!

Anyway, suffice to say, said chap had yet another chap as a good friend who was very fearful of flying in these times. To quote him ….

I am so afraid of flying these days. I just don’t want to fly knowing there is such a high probability of a bomb being on board the plane and that I might die.

The statistician had a think and came up with his solution, suggesting that all the other chap needed to do was always carry his own bomb with him …. because though the chance of one bomb being hidden on a plane was getting higher every day … the chance of two bombs … well now – that was close to zero. Problem solved.

Wow. Brilliant. Did it work?

Graham. Seriously? Now I see why you reached out!

As far as I can see, the stats support the idea that as far as random selection is concerned there is indeed reason to be suspicious, but still in the area of possibility. Now – next time you go through LHR – and you are pulled aside, it might well suggest that there is something more than randomness going on.

Pick a person. Any person. Just not me, again.