Home > Uncategorized > Math isn’t under attack

Math isn’t under attack

Not from airlines afraid of terrorists, anyway.

Since about 15 people have sent me some version of this story about an economist on an airplane, I thought I’d comment briefly on my take.

Namely, it’s mostly due to the lousy reporting, but people have gotten this all wrong. The article’s headline should have read:

Crazy Woman Removed From Plane

because, really, that’s what happened. Some paranoid freak decided that an integral sign on the page of notes of a swarthy Italian man next to her posed a terrorist threat. She passed a note to the flight attendant. The airline took her off the plane. Done.

Well, almost. I mean, they also took the economist off the plane and questioned him, but I’m willing to believe that is absolutely required when terrorist suspicions are thrown around like this insane woman did.

Maybe it’s my inner New Yorker coming out here, but I’m just so used to sitting next to perfectly normal looking people on the subway who turn out to be utterly insane, that I’m ready to assume anyone at all is fucking nuts. And I know I’m not going out on a limb here by mentioning that note-passers older than 13 are already suspect; get up and walk over to someone if you’re worried.

So, short version: some woman was nuts, she indicated as much to the flight crew, and they removed her from the flight. Math isn’t under attack.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 9, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I don’t think math is under attack. But I do think that people who look a little different or foreign in certain ways are under attack. And I think the reason there is such a strong response to this article is that there is the sense that it is not just this one woman who is crazy, but our whole society.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rob
    May 9, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I’m reading a book about how math is a threat to society by some crazy woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    • rob
      May 9, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Actually, she’s brilliant and the book is too. It’s got a lot of heart. You should take a look at it.


  3. May 9, 2016 at 11:50 am

    A serious risk analysis of the airplane business will eventually lead to a limit on size to around 30 seats per plane. Go on, do the arithmetic !!!!!!


  4. Aaron
    May 9, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Excellent use of the word “swarthy.”


  5. Josh
    May 9, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    It is a little disconcerting that someone could be under suspicion as an imminent threat because of something they are writing. Unless it is “Fly this plane to North Korea or I will blow it up” or something like that. I mean lots of script is indecipherable to many of us. What if he had been writing in Arabic?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. May 11, 2016 at 12:44 am

    From the Eonomist…gotta laugh

    “AN ACADEMIC economist was taken off a plane last week after a fellow passenger became suspicious. He was feverishly scribbling what she thought was “terrorist code” or foreign lettering into a notebook. It turned out that Guido Menzio, an Italian economist from the University of Pennsylvania, was working on some differential equations for a model on menu costs and price dispersion. Thankfully, Mr Menzio was allowed back on his flight. But passengers can’t be too careful. Here are ten ways to tell you might be sitting next to an economist; police have also released pictures of two prime suspects (see above).”

    Here’s the link:)

    Ten ways to tell you might be sitting next to an economist



  7. May 18, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I like your version of the story but I think it’s misleading: you make it sound like it was the Airline’s initiative to remove the complaining woman from the flight. According to the Washington Post she requested to be removed and rebooked on another flight.


    • May 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      It’s hard to know what would have happened without her request, but I am guessing they’d have removed her.


    • May 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      It’s hard to know what would have happened without her request, but I am guessing they’d have removed her.


  1. May 10, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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