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Everyday Probability

# Everyday Probability

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03/27/2013

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Hot-ﬁlament electric light bulbs are a common and cheap com-
modity, produced in large numbers by mass-production processes.
Inevitably there is some variation in their characteristics and the

March 24, 2008 17:9 B-595

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120 Everyday Probability and Statistics

one that most people are concerned with is their lifetime. A more
expensive light bulb that lasts longer may be preferred to a cheaper
if the effort of changing a bulb is a primary consideration.
We now consider a particular brand of light bulb that is found
to have a mean life of 1,000h and a standard deviation of 100h.
Assuming that the lifetimes have a normal distribution then what is
1,200h?Since1,200his2σfromthemeanweareinterestedinthearea
of that part of the normal distribution that is more than 2σ from the
mean in the positive direction. From Table 10.1 the area between the
meanand2σfromthemeanis0.47725sotheareainthetailmorethan
2σfromthemeaninthepositivedirectionis0.5−0.47725=0.02275.
Hence the proportion of bulbs with a lifetime of more than 1,200h
is about 1 in 45. We should also note that this is also the probability
of a lifetime of less than 800h.
If we bought a light bulb and it only lasted 700h would we be
justiﬁed in complaining? Not really — in the sale of millions of light
bulbs some would inevitably fail early. We would not be rushing to