The Monty Hall problem shows how tricky judging the odds can be

shutterstock/Jose Luis Stephens

Calculating probabilities can be tricky, with subtle changes in context giving quite different results. I was reminded of this recently after setting BrainTwister #10 for New Scientist readers, which was about the odds of seating two pairs of people adjacently in a row of 22 chairs.

Several readers wrote to say my solution was wrong. I had figured out all the possible seating arrangements and counted the ones that had the two groups adjacent. The readers, meanwhile, seated one pair first and then counted the ways of seating the second pair adjacently. Neither approach was wrong, depending on how you…

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