“Every minute, 34.2 million men and women copulate. Only 5.7 percent of all intercourse results in fertilization, but the combined ejaculate, at a volume of forty-five thousand litters a minute, contains 1,990 billion (with deviations in the last decimal place) living spermatozoa. The same number of female eggs could be fertilized sixty times an hour with a minimal ratio of one spermatozoon to one egg, in which impossible case three million children would be conceived per second. But this, too, is only a statistical manipulation.”
In “One Human Minute” by Stanislaw Lem
Lem never fails to disappoint. This is one of those long-forgotten Lem books no one remembers anymore. I read it more than 20 years ago, and it still packs quite a punch. My love with book reviewing started around the time I read this three-essay-volume (“One Human Minute”, “The Upside Down Evolution”, and “The World as Cataclysm”) comprising reviews of non-existent books… As always, when a book is this good my mind goes on a tangent…
Boss: "Will this work?"
Statistician: "Probability of success is 90% so..."
Boss: "Let's do it."
Boss: "It didn't work. You're fired."
Hopefully the statistician will use his period of unemployment to get better at his job. If you're offered a wager where there is a 90% chance that you will win 5 euros and a 10% chance you will be shot dead then you have to be a very poor statistician to think "the probability of success is 90% so I'll take it".
If you're into SF, read on.