The Ever-Elusive Airplane Crash

I live near an airport. Well about ten to fifteen miles away, I suppose. But it’s the third busiest airport in the world. An international one. Thus planes are constantly flying right over my house, and generally pretty low, on their way to landing. My supposition is that these aircraft are somewhere between five- and ten-thousand feet. It’s quite common to be awakened by the sound of the engines screaming through the night, directly above me. Especially when I have my windows open.

So I started thinking last night about the plausibility of a crash landing in my bedroom. Here’s the control set I theorized under: The world as we know it will not end, ever, but will last infinitely. Aircraft will infinitely be flying over my house, as they are today, and the technology will remain fairly constant. Meaning they will still use conventional fuel and conventional thrust and drag technology. Assuming all this, my question was this: As long as they are flying over my house evermore, what is the probability that one would someday crash into my house?

Is it plausible, probable, or inevitable? Obviously, each graduation is inclusive of its former, but to what end is it probable or inevitable? If we are to assume that forevermore there will be planes flying over my house, then that means the number is infinite. Absolutely unending. Would it not be logical that if an infinite number of planes flies over, then an infinite number of things will happen? Or is it always a game of chance? If we have an infinite number of outcomes, it seems to me that e every one I could conceive would become eventuality. This is, of course, to say that not only my house would be destroyed, but all my neighbors’ and every place in between.
Well, by increasing the number of planes and the number of times they fly over, effectively I have increased the odds of being hit. But not to the point of inevitability. Is it inevitable that if we played the lottery forevermore, that someday the numbers would be 1-2-3-4-5-6? I think not. Probable, yes, but not inevitable.

I originally thought that it would have to be inevitable. If the number has no limit, an infinite number of planes will hit an infinite number of locations. Statistically this may be accurate, I am no statistician, but scientifically and physically it is not the case. It’s like the monkey behind a typewriter. If he types infinitely, will he someday type the Bible word for word?

It is true that the more planes we have, the more probability we have of one hitting my house. But as each one passes, the next has the same probability as the last. The odds don’t go up every time a plane passes. Therefore, the probability is a constant probable. Example: If you mix ten decks of cards together, you have a better chance of drawing an ace. Furthermore, with every card you draw, your chance of drawing an ace increases. Not so in the plane crash though, because you are not running out of places for it to hit. This experiment has no parameters, no limitations. A plane could crash anywhere, anytime. Therefore the odds of being hit don’t increase as each plane passes. If it were a controlled set, the odds would be ever increasing. But it’s not. So I think I am safe.

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1 Response

  1. Kinetic Kim says:

    I see the line of reasoning you are chasing here, Spacey. By increasing the number of planes and the number of times they fly over, effectively you have increased the odds of being hit.

    But not to the point of inevitability. Is it inevitable that if we played the lottery forevermore, that someday the numbers would be 1-2-3-4-5-6? I think not. Probable, yes, but not inevitable.

    You suggested an infinite number of planes, every five minutes for infinity. So you are saying it is inevitable that one will strike your house. Along this train of reason, it would be as accurate, then, to say that an infinite number of planes will hit your house. If the number has no limit, an infinite number of planes will hit an infinite number of locations. Statistically this may be accurate, I am no statistician, but scientifically and physically it is not the case. It’s like the monkey behind a typewriter. If he types infinitely, will he someday type the Bible word for word?

    It is true that the more planes you have, the more probability you have of one hitting your house. But as each one passes, the next has the same probability as the last. The odds don’t go up every time a plane passes. Therefore, the probability is a constant probable. Example: If you mix ten decks of cards together, you have a better chance of drawing an ace. Furthermore, with every card you draw, your chance of drawing an ace increases. Not so in the plane crash though, because you are not running out of places for it to hit. This experiment has no parameters, no limitations. A plane could crash anywhere, anytime. Therefore your odds of being hit don’t increase as each plane passes. If it were a controlled set, your odds would be ever increasing. But it’s not.

    So I think you are safe. :)

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