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Math Idle

How That 'Extra .9%' Could Ward Off a Zombie Apocalypse 204

netbuzz writes "The questioner on Quora asks: 'When is the difference between 99% accuracy and 99.9% accuracy very important?' And the most popular answer provided cites an example familiar to all of you: service level agreements. However, the most entertaining reply comes from a computer science and mathematics student at the University of Texas, Alex Suchman. Here's his answer: 'When it can stop a Zombie Apocalypse.'"
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How That 'Extra .9%' Could Ward Off a Zombie Apocalypse

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  • Statistics 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackicye ( 760472 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:56AM (#43355193)

    An example we were given in my Intro to Stats module once upon a time used the Space Shuttle Program.

    The numbers following the decimal point are very important when it might mean the difference between a Space Shuttle failing catastrophically instead of leaving / returning through the atmosphere intact.

    And the vast differences in manufacturing costs between a 99.9%, 99.99% and 99.999% fault tolerant component and why
    it would be necessary in the bigger picture of the complete system.

  • by Sussurros ( 2457406 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:00AM (#43355203)
    A zombie apocalypse happened in Britain and was shown in a BBC documentary by Derren Brown.
  • Re:Statistics 101 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:07AM (#43355217)
    I read once that one of the most important things to come out of the entire Apollo program was the concept of 'zero defect manufacturing', which until then had only been possible in small custom workshops.
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @04:48AM (#43355729) Homepage Journal

    Ok they sound plausible. However in all such cases, the zombie apocalypse would be very short lived - the infected humans simply wouldn't be able to survive very long.

    There's a reason rabies didn't result in a rabies apocalypse...

  • Re:Statistics 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @08:59AM (#43356487)

    Which is why you'd make the O-rings out of different compounds, and install no set with all the same type.

    Which still doesn't eliminate dependent failures, because the failure of one O-ring increases the stress on the next O-ring (particularly the burst of pressure as the first O-ring fails).

    Locate the diesel generators in 2 or 3 power houses around the site.

    Which doesn't eliminate dependent failures when the failures are due to a contaminated fuel delivery.

    2+ server rooms on site with replication between them (with additional replication off-site).

    Which doesn't eliminate dependent failures when the failures are due to common software running on all sites.

    But how much resource do you throw at the problem? Its easy for us after the events to decide if NASA should have used O-rings of differing compounds or Fukashima have multiple power houses on different levels.

    For that you could call me in. Working that out what I do for a living.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:39AM (#43356769) Homepage

    ...people can even begin to try to rationalise it and behave as though it could actually happen.

    It's also an educational opportunity. I occasionally do mentoring, and I've used zombies as a good example for a worst-case scenario for emergency preparedness. It provides a good narrative to cover a wide variety of situations where everything's gone wrong, without entering into a ridiculous movie-plot-specific series of impossibly unlikely events. By starting out with the assumption that we're already in a worst-case scenario, where the survivor is one of only a few to survive an epidemic, it's not a terribly large stretch to assume that the car won't start, or that there's a storm coming, or that an earthquake has broken gas lines, and the survivor can't rely on government services.

    Speaking of how impossible a zombie is, the zombie apocalypse also provides some ironically humane ways to discuss epidemiology, biology, medicine, and ethics, because pop-culture zombies are a convenient infection without suffering. The actual conversion process is rarely a focus in stories, and once the zombie is a zombie, they're too mindless to even fear harm. They just keep wandering, not even bothering to eat regularly... which brings us to discussing chemistry and thermodynamics.

    Personally, I just think it's feeding the insane "survivalist" mentality that is spreading like a virus through the US. Oh, wait...

    Jokes aside, we don't have any Communists or Nazis today to worry about, or Confederates, or British, or Spanish, or Visigoths, or Persians, or even rival tribes. We do have terrorists to fear, but there aren't any terrorists likely to launch a full occupation of the US. The survivalist mentality has always been here, but now we don't have any looming evil that we need to survive. While minor emergencies (such as those requiring the aforementioned preparedness) may happen, the barbarians aren't at the gate. They're in their living rooms, shouting insults into their XBox.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.