[Taxacom] Random taxonomy

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sun Dec 1 18:21:13 CST 2013

This is the famous "birthday problem" in combinatorics. Check any book on probabilistic theory.
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Knut Rognes
Sent: Fri 11/29/2013 4:24 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Random taxonomy

Dear Taxacomers,

I have a statistical problem.

Consider 50 black boxes, within each is a specimen of fly. Each fly has been
identified by someone, its name written on the inside of the box, but this
is invisible to you. You cannot peek inside. Each fly belong to one of 50
possible species.

You have at your disposal the 50 possible species names for these flies,
each name printed on an adhesive label, the supply of printed labels for
each name is limitless.

Here is the game: you affix a random label on the outside of a random box.

Now the problem: What is the likelihood that you put a correct label on the
box, i.e. that the name on the label matches the identity of the fly within?

Knut Rognes

Oslo, Norway

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