# If you look a bit foreign, don't do math on a plane

1. May 7, 2016

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
2. May 7, 2016

### Borg

Clearly she came to a conclusion that just didn't add up.

3. May 7, 2016

### Isaac0427

I agree, this is too stupid to be made up .

4. May 7, 2016

### micromass

Does economy really qualify as math??

5. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

The American paranoia isn't just famous, it's also increasing! Must be very unpleasant to fear everybody you meet around the clock.

6. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

Microeconomics, hmm, perhaps not, but macroeconomics without math is simply empty.

7. May 7, 2016

### ogg

The female passenger is the one who should have been detained for raising the alarm without any valid rationale. Hopefully, she will be barred from any future air flight. If not, then ignorance wins. This seems to me to be EXACTLY an example of unreasonable and unjustified search and seizure. The fact that the airline took action with zero valid justification should be heavily sanctioned. Perhaps a \$10 million dollar fine per incident, would do the trick. Oh, and make sure that any appeal be handled by an arbitration judge who is compensated with a % of the fine. Ignorance is not a valid excuse, even if the Washington Post abuses the dumb blonde (sexist) stereotype, again.

8. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

I'm reasonably certain differential equations are a tool of evil.

9. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

I'm not sure I agree. She's dumb, sure, but I'm not sure it is a good idea to strongly discourage people from speaking-up. Usually, there isn't enough of that.
As far as I can tell, there were no searches or seizures involved here, but even if there had been a search, it wouldn't have been unreasonable: everything you have is subject to search on an airline flight.
Disagree. The airline has a responsibility to the safety of its passengers and their bar for pro-active protection of safety is extremely high.

10. May 7, 2016

### Ygggdrasil

It was at one point a joke going around on the internet: http://www.ms.uky.edu/~jrge/340/Weapons_of_Math_Instruction.html

11. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

Uhmm, ...., you know that your avatar shows someone next to an instrument which is supposed to stare a the biggest differential equation we know of?

12. May 7, 2016

### micromass

Why do you think we spend so much time staring at it? Because it's evil!

13. May 7, 2016

### DiracPool

You can put somebody's eye out with a compass!

As far as the terrorist, I'd be looking for dangling fuses hanging out of his shoes or Gatorade bottle. If he's just starting to mathematically work out the kinetics of his explosive device during the refreshment service on a 41 minute flight, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

14. May 7, 2016

### Psinter

What does the scouter says about her education level? That she's lacking a little in the math department.

My math isn't awesome, but at least I recognize differential equations.

Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
15. May 7, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

Happily it has been only mathematics and he wasn't dealing with radicals. Imagine a chemist dealing with (free!) radicals!

16. May 7, 2016

### mathwonk

17. May 8, 2016

### atyy

Very educated woman Lots of maths is Arabic. Algebra is. Edmund Halley learnt Arabic.

18. May 8, 2016

### StevieTNZ

This is utterly appalling. Racism at its best.

19. May 8, 2016

### StatGuy2000

So I take it that differential equations was not your favorite class in college?

20. May 8, 2016

### StatGuy2000

Oh, dear. Where to begin?

As I understand from the article, the woman on the plane thought that the man sitting beside her on the plane was suspicious because (1) he had an accent, (2) he looked "Middle Eastern", and (3) he was scribbling something on a piece of paper.

First, since when does a foreign accent and looking "Middle Eastern" sufficient for the man being suspicious? The man wasn't even Middle Eastern, he is Italian!

Second, since when does writing on a piece of paper constitute a threat? Even if the man was writing something in Arabic script (which, btw, may not necessarily be Arabic -- it could be Farsi, Urdu, or any number of other languages), chances are that whatever he was writing was probably innocuous -- he could have been writing a letter to his mother! At any rate, how dangerous is someone with a pen, anyways?

Third, has this woman never taken math in school in her life? She may not know what a differential equation is, but she should know what an equation is, and should know that it's not a foreign script. After all, we write equations using the Latin alphabet, with occasional Greek letters!

21. May 8, 2016

### phinds

You vastly overestimate the math knowledge of the average American. I think it's common for people who understand math at least through trig and calculus to do that and even more so for people who know more advanced math.

22. May 8, 2016

### StatGuy2000

I'm from Canada, and there are many people here in this country whose math knowledge is minimal at best, so I don't expect the average American to be any better or worse in that regard. And I didn't expect her to understand the equations he was writing, but at the same time, anyone who can read should know that what the man was writing was not a foreign script. I don't think that's too much to expect of an average American, is it?

23. May 8, 2016

### phinds

Probably. I've known college graduates who could not identify what the integral symbol means and probably were not sure if it was part of a foreign script. It looks Arabic after all. AND, 60% of adult Americans have not graduated from college.

24. May 8, 2016

### micromass

Really? Does something like $\int_1^2 \sqrt{1 - x^2}dx$ look similar to بشرية النفط الأعمال كل وتم. عن وبداية بالمطالبة وفي, تصرّف الأخذ جهة بل. وجزر شموليةً لكل ان, جسيمة الموسوعة ضرب عن, تم بحشد حلّت الخاسرة دار. لم أمام وانهاء وبالتحديد، تلك. تم تلك حادثة الإطلاق.

Even if you don't know integrals, I think the difference between math and arabic is pretty obvious.

25. May 8, 2016

### phinds

Yes, I think so too, but obviously this lady didn't and I don't think she's even close to being alone. After all, I doubt if she really looked at it. Something like an integral sign probably jumped out at her and she then jumped to the wrong conclusion. I just don't find it all that surprising.