Thursday, April 7, 2016

Car Odometer Reading - 100,000 Miles

Just the other day my car, at about 13 years old, crossed the 100,000 mile mark on the odometer.  I was at the grocery store, just leaving when it hit 99,999 miles.  When I pulled the car into my garage, it read exactly 100,000 miles!

Sweet!  Or is it?  What are the odds of pulling into the garage with 100,000 miles on the odometer.  It must be one out of one hundred thousand or 0.001%, right?  Actually no.  That may seem like very low odds, but consider the number of times I've pulled the car into the garage with a different odometer reading?  A lot!  Let me do a quick estimate.  Let's assume I drive every day.  Some days I leave the house more than once, others not at all, so not a bad assumption.  This means that over 13 years, I've pulled the car into the garage a total of 13*365 = 4,745 times.  Each time there is a different reading on the odometer.  Over 100,000 miles, this gives an approximate chance of pulling into the garage at 100,000 miles of 4,475/100,000 = 4.475%.  Still low, but not all that low.  That's closing in on a 1 in 20 chance, much greater than a 1 in 100,000 chance.  

We consider the number 100,000 on a car's odometer as something special, but it's really no more special than an odometer reading of 115,821 miles or 34,291 miles.  The odds are the same, but we perceive certain numbers to be more special than others.  Case in point, I took a picture of my car's odometer at 100,000.  I've never taken a picture of my car's odometer reading anything else, but 100,000 miles is no more special than any other number.

What does all of this mean?  Not much, other than humans are weird.  :-)    

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