I was out on a smoke break, and (as is often the case) my brain was just flipping through random stuff, and the following anecdote bubbled to the top.
A military man and a mathematician are discussing various matters, and the topic of great generals comes up. The military man states that a “great general” is someone who wins 5 battles in a row, and mentions that only 2-5% of generals are considered “great”.
The mathematician points out that if a battle’s outcome is random (50% chance of victory, 50% of defeat), then the odds of winning five in a row is just about 3% (100 * 0.5[sup]5[/sup] = 3.125), so it’s to be expected that 3% of generals are “great” just due to random chance.
This is one of those pieces of data that I have no idea where I picked it up. It may have been at school (maybe high school), from a book, or maybe just random story swapping with friends. I’m pretty sure I heard it prior to getting onto the internet (so earlier than mid-90s), although I may have come across it online afterward.
What is the origination of this story? My google-fu is weak today, and I can’t seem to track anything down pertaining to it.
Was this an actual conversation between real people, or just an apocryphal anecdote made up by bored math students after getting too many wedgies from ROTC cadets?