My great theory

3 August 2006
2:09 PM

I don’t know much about probability and statistics (though I have my eye on a new book, Chances Are by Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan, that’s supposed to be quite good). I do know enough to figure out some basics combinations. For example, let’s say that you have four pairs of pants and eight shirts, and that through miraculous wardrobe planning, you can wear any of the shirts with any of the pants. Some very simple math says you then have 4 × 8, or 32 possible outfits. Similarly, if you’re a woman looking to maximize a fairly limited wardrobe (like, I don’t know, that of a Holy Cross Associate), you might have a three pairs of earrings, three necklaces, and two bracelets. This jewelry allows you to add 3 × 3 × 2, or 18 accessorizing options to any outfit you’ve got.

You’re with me so far, I’m sure, because this is basic enough that I’m pretty sure I can’t screw up the explanation. To figure out the number of combinations of items, you just multiply them all together. In the Chilean winter, however, I have recently realized something that just may revolutionize combination theory. If I were John Forbes Nash, this would be my great idea that will win me a Nobel Prize. I have about nine shirts, and three sweaters that I wear regularly here in the winter. Now, traditional calculations might say that I have 27 combinations of upper-body clothing. That is clearly enough to convince people who see me on a daily basis that I don’t wear the same thing all the time. But this is wrong! Since the sweater completely covers the shirt, I actually have just three outfits, which people see me wearing day after day. The measure of combinations is completely inaccurate. As a result, people think that I don’t have any clothing.

Now I just need to publish something with fancy charts and equations and await my fame. Just remember that you heard it here first.