Do you like probability? Let's get down to business! Try your luck with the following problems!
"I have two children. The older of them is a girl. What is the probability that both of my children are girls?"
Seems simple enough, right? Since the older one is a girl, the younger one could either be a girl or a boy. Assuming that a boy and a girl both have an equal probability of being born, the answer should be , right? Yes, you are correct. The answer is .
Let's try a different version of this problem.
"I have two children. One of them is a girl. What is the probability that both of them are girls?"
Wait! How's this problem different from the last one? Well, for one the wording's a little different. But does that matter? If one of the children is a girl, the other one could either be a boy or a girl. So the probability should be like before, right?
While it is true that there are two possibilities for the other child, that doesn't mean that both of these events are equally probable. In this case, the event that the other child is a boy is twice more likely than the event that the other child is a girl. That is because it is twice more likely that the person has one boy and one girl than the event that the person has two girls. So the correct probability is . There's a really good write-up on this here. That piece is so good that I advise you to stop reading this and start reading that. But don't forget to come back to this when you're done!
I'm sure that everything up to this point was pretty boring to a lot of people. Both of the problems above are very well-known. But now I'm going to take it up a notch. Let's go!
"I have two children. One of them is a girl who was born on a Friday. What is the probability that I have two girls?"
Wait a minute! How's this at all different from the second problem? What does Friday have to do with the probability?
Do you remember the answer to the second problem? It was . Adding the 'Friday condition' shifts the answer and the new answer is now closer to than it is to !
Now this is the time I tell you stop reading and start thinking about the problem. It's a lot more fun than just reading the answer.
Congratulations to those who have resisted the urge to read on and gave the problem some thought!
So the answer is actually . The solution itself isn't really that hard. There are two cases to consider.
: when the older child is a girl born on a Friday
There are different events for the younger child [a boy born on any day of the week + a girl born on any day of the week] and all of these are equally likely. We're only interested in the events where both the children are girls. There are of these.
: when the younger child is a girl born on a Friday
There are actually different events now [not since the event of (older sister born on a Friday + younger sister born on a Friday) was already counted in case . We don't want to count that twice.]. And out of these we're interested in the ones where both of the children are girls. There are of these.
If you're a little bit confused, don't worry. Take a piece of paper and a pen and go through the cases by yourself. You'll eventually figure it out.
The most interesting thing about this problem is that it's incredibly non-intuitive. Why on earth does the 'Friday condition' change the probability? Even if you don't say it loud, your children have to born on one day or another, right? So, why does saying it out loud change the probability? Well, because of the counter-intuitive nature of this problem, this note is going into my 'Counter-intuitive!' set. I'm going add some more stuff to it soon.
Note: Throughout the entire note, we have disregarded the possibility of twins.
The picture was taken from here. It adds a nice touch to the post, don't you think? :)