Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arnold plays a joke...

Last week, California assemblyman Tom Ammiano heckled Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Republican gala - barking 'you lie' in imitation of the Republican congressman who'd heckled President Obama earlier this year.

In revenge for this snub, Schwarzenegger deliberatly vetoed a bill that Ammiano had recently passed through the house - also using the opportunity to write a strongly worded letter condeming the California legislature for its failure to act on the state's crushing budget deficit.

But within the letter, there was also another message - one specifically for Tom Ammiano.

Read the first letter from each line of the seven-word letter:

Although this 'message' was quickly spotted, the governor's office denied any involvement.

"It's a weird coincidence," said Schwarzenegger's spokesperson.

A very weird one. With 26 letters in the alphabet, the chances of that message appearing 'randomly' are approximately one in a billion.


Occasional Professor Tom said...

So, now I actually want to figure it out how unlikely this was. The obvious way is to treat each letter as if it occurs 1/26th of the time, which would give 1/8,031,810,176.

If we control for the relative frequencies of letters in English, it becomes more unlikely. I'm getting a result of 1/ 185,399,389,457). That's because these letters are less likely than others. For example, k makes up only 1/130 letters in the average English document.

Unfortunately, I don't have the real killer data, which is the frequency of letters at the start of words. That's what would be dispositive.

Also, note that none of these calculations takes into account the chance of a letter having consecutive paragraphs with four and 3 lines.

Roland Hulme said...

So I was only seven billion out from your initial estimate! #mathfail!

Is it worth saying that it's unlikely to be a coincidence?