If You See Anything, Say Something? Math On A Plane

Remember September 2016 2015? That was the month that [Ahmed Mohamed] brought a modified clock to school and was accused of being a terrorist. The event divided people with some feeling like it was ignorance on the part of the school, some felt the school had to be cautious, some felt it was racial profiling, and others thought it was a deliberate provocation from his possibly politically active parents. In the end, [Ahmed] moved to Qatar.

Regardless of the truth behind the affair, this month we’ve seen something that is probably even less ambiguous. The Washington Post reports that a woman told an Air Wisconsin crew that she was too ill to fly. In reality, she was sitting next to a suspicious man and her illness was a ruse to report him to the crew.

Authorities questioned the man. What was his suspicious activity? Was he assembling a bomb? Carrying a weapon? Murmuring plans for destruction into a cell phone? No, he was writing math equations. University of Pennsylvania economics professor [Guido Menzio] was on his way to deliver a speech and was reviewing some differential equations related to his work.

[Menzio] says he was treated well, and the flight was only delayed two hours (which sounds better in a blog post then it does when you are flying). However, this–to me–highlights a very troubling indicator of the general public’s level of education about… well… everything. It is all too easy to imagine any Hackaday reader looking at a schematic or a hex dump or source code could have the same experience.

Some media has tried to tie the event to [Menzio’s] appearance (he’s Italian) but I was frankly surprised that someone would be afraid of an equation. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but a math equation won’t (by itself) down an aircraft. I’ve heard speculation that the woman might have thought the equations were Arabic. First of all, what? And secondly, what if it were? If a person is writing in Arabic on an airplane, that shouldn’t be cause for alarm.

It sounds like the airline (which is owned by American Airlines) and officials acted pretty reasonably if you took the threat as credible. The real problem is that the woman–and apparently, the pilot–either didn’t recognize the writing as equations or somehow feared equations?

Regardless of your personal feelings about the clock incident, you could at least make the argument that the school had a duty to act with caution. If they missed a real bomb, they would be highly criticized for not taking a threat seriously. However, it is hard to imagine how symbols on a piece of paper could be dangerous.

While the mainstream media will continue to focus on what this means for passenger safety and racial profiling, I see it as a barometer of the general public’s perception of science, math, and technology as dark arts.

224 thoughts on “If You See Anything, Say Something? Math On A Plane

        1. Why being a dick? You always have the option to not to read HAD or contact the authors and politely explaining them where they could improve. The worst is that you do not give us an explanation why you are unhappy. We’re left to figure that out and assume you’re a dick.

        2. I appreciate the article; however I suspect that this is one of many examples people getting paranoid about a middle eastern looking person on their plane. This type of person often doesn’t know the difference between Arab, Italian, or Hispanic. The writing probably appeared to confirm her delusions and escalate the panic attack that started as soon as she realized who she was sitting next to. I’ve had friends witness people nearly having a panic attack because someone on the plane has an olive skin tone.

      1. Ha ha +1000 – try telling your maths teacher that the guy sitting next to you in class is using Arabic numerals in his work book. The bomb squad will probably come out, and take your classmate off to jail.

      2. 01000010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01100100 01100101 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000

        1. There are 10 types of people. those who know binary and those that don’t :-)
          x42 x69 x6e x61 x72 x79 x20 x6e x6f x74 x20 x64 x65 x6e x61 x72 x79 x20
          B i n a r y sp n o t sp d e n a r y sp

          1. There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary, those who don’t, and those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 3.

          2. In some cases there are 12 types of people. Depending on the resolution of the ADC/DAC. There are a lot more people who are three types: binary and high Z.

    1. turns out there is a whole radical belief system of economists, they already infiltrated the federal reserve, and the Islamathical Revenue Service, the meaning of the word “ecos” “nomos” turns out to be “housekeeping” … in Greek!

    1. This video demonstrates perfectly why Ahmed caused such a stir, while having nothing in common with the stupid occurrences Dr Menzio lamentably experienced.

      1. No. Ahmed’s sister had pulled a bomb hoax the year before, He put the “clock” inside a mini briefcase so it looked like a Hollywood style briefcase bomb. His father is a media whore and I believe he used Ahmed for his political gain. The school didn’t even think it was a bomb but did think Ahmed created this for the purpose of a bomb hoax.

    1. of course he does.

      but thanks to ‘put your brain on-hold, just do what you’re told!’, aka, zero-tolerance, he had no choice.

      how’s all that zero tol shit working out for y’all? ready to repeal that concept yet?

      zero-tol was also the reason clock-kid got all that heat from the fuzz and press.

      1. Zero Tolerance. Hmmm. Sounds like a quality ascribed to certain villains of history. Or perhaps some present day religious zealots we label as “terrorists”.
        So….why do we now aspire to this previously characterized bad quality? Seems to me that I remember tolerance as being one of the key qualities of this grand experiment called the United States. Those researchers seem to have left the lab unattended. Will those men of great ideals ever return? If the current political race is to be taken into evidence, the outlook is pretty grim.
        Just nod and take the 5th. Your court appointed defense goes by the name “Frito”.

        1. If by tolerance you mean the slightly different shades of Protestant Christianity tolerating each other like it originally meant then I don’t see how anything has changed.

      2. For resistors, I usually get by with 1%. Smaller tolerance would be just too expensive. For me, it’s a hobby, after all.

        Zero tolerance? That must be hellishly expensive!

        1. I will sell you a truck load of zero-tolerance resistors if you want them. Their values will be a little odd and are only gauranteed over a very specific temperature range but sure… why not. Just let me go grab my multimeter and my wife’s nailpolish box.

      3. He has 100% choice.. to have the women constrained and carted off for evaluation, she is after all acting irrational during a flight. And after your own definition such people MUST be dealt with even if there is no real danger.

        Meanwhile the math guy has no option other than to sue the airline for a few hundred million I feel.

    2. If you read the article, it says the woman pretended to be ill until the plane was grounded, and -then- revealed that she thought it was a terrorist.

      The pilot or the crew didn’t know what the incident was really about until they were landed.

    3. Actually in the US, most people write with “computer” letters, like in books. Most Europe countries use “attaché” letters, like French and Italy. TBH I’m French and I can’t read my dad, I’m too used to computerized fonts. Plus, if the guy writes like a doctor (hey who can read a doctor, except himself?), I can easily understand people thinking it was Arabic ^^
      Anyway, once a warning is set, pilots don’t have other choice than calling cops, etc… If he was a real threat about to bomb the plane, it would have been because pilots responsibility. Call the cops, free yourself from the mess, and keep out of the blames… That’s sad.

      1. It’s called block letters and handwriting – when I was in school (Germany. 1980’s) we even had beauty-handwriting and they would score us for ‘style’.
        Naturally time flies and pupils had to keep up with the teacher (simple copy process from the chalk board into the notebooks, yay) so the beauty concept did go thrown under the bus in grade 3 or so.
        I remember my class teacher gave me a notebook for beauty handwriting exercises (pre printed handwriting letters you had to repeat ad nauseum) in 2nd class as I was developing a rather ‘fast’ style called “chicken-shit” and she tried to counter it ;-)

  1. I’ve had some math problems take me to some pretty dark places.
    There are many reasons to come to the conclusion that many of us are ignorant of many things. The simple math of fear plus ignorance will also lead us down dark paths. Terrorism increases the fear part of the equation. That is its purpose. I totally expect ignorant individuals to raise this sort of alarm. What bothers me is that it took 2 hours to straighten it out?
    Surely math formulas are not that obscure of an art.

    1. they should release her name (or anonymous should dox her).

      normally, I am not in favor of that kind of thing; but in this case, she deserves to be internet-shamed. seriously deserves it.

      1. I disagree. She made a mistake and shouldn’t be ostracized for it. This is an anecdotal situation that reflects a larger problem to some degree. That’s the conversation we’re trying to have here: is the general populous under-educated in advanced math and science? Did this situation escalate because of that?

        1. I would be very “upset” by her actions.
          Sitting on the plane with all the others wondering what happened (the two hour delay).
          Looking at you as IF something dangerous had happened.
          Yes, it was a mistake.
          But does she (or anyone else) think they are doing this country any good in playing “hero”.

        2. I disagree. She ultimately made the decision to oust the man as a terrorist. Her background has a lot to do with her decision, but one thing is for sure: this will make a good blonde joke.

        3. what if the larger problem is caused by radical pragmatism? don’t study theory, don’t drill down on interesting facts on wikipedia, just sign up here, do as you are told and stop thinking. And if you see others do what they want, report them!

        4. I disagree. She did something extremely dumb, and it has absolutely nothing to do with level of education or the lack of it, instead it has everything to do with how she handled something that was simply unfamiliar. It’s the same problem as in Ahmed’s case, actually. People are not supposed to be mindless CCTV drones; they are to be expected to exhibit common sense, and part of that is not acting like “Ooooh! What’s that?!? Me scared!!! HAAAAAALP! AWOOOOOGA!” unless something more substantial seems to back up the existence of an actual threat. A simple smile followed by “That looks interesting! What is it…?” should have prevented this from ever becoming news…

          1. In Ahmed’s case, nobody reacted to it as if it were a bomb. They reacted to it as if they thought he was trying to make it look like a bomb (and failed).

        5. The only thing that can deter future idiocy of this type is to make it expensive and painful. I want this next paranoid idiot to think about whether they are going to spend some time in the Internet stocks before they open their yap.

      1. I’d imagine most engineers and economists lean right.
        Therefore, had she been a Republican she would have been more likely to recognize said differential equations.

        1. Most engineers/economists may lean right [citation needed], but this doesn’t imply that most Republicans (leaning right) would have any such previous exposure needed to recognize differential equations.

        2. As an engineer, I agree that most engineers lean right. This is something that surprised me because my interest in engineering came out of an interest in science. Of course, scientist (not mentioned above) tend to lean left. My generalization: Scientist are more open minded and inquisitive, while engineers just want to know whatever they need to know to get the job done.

          1. Every high end full stack programmer I’ve met was right leaning. Not with humans…like immigration…but on things like taxes. It’s a club for two kinds of people: people with little education and rich people desperately attempting to hold on to every penny they make. Greed or stupidity, take yer pick you edumicated weirdo! Have a beer! No, not that expensive crap, Coors.

      2. Republican’s can do math, that is why they are so rich and we all work for them.

        Think about it, which group needs safe spaces at colleges? Get degrees in “gender studies” than then wonders why they can’t get jobs?

        Quit frankly, stupidity know now boundaries or party affiliations. Here is a novel idea, how about waiting until more is known about the woman until assigning her to a group you despise? I’m an engineer, and have done work during flights that would of also got me reported by this woman. Now because of her I need to announce on every flight to everyone that I’m just doing math, no need to worry. No problem unless I forget to carry the “2”….

        1. Republican CIO/CFO/CEO/Presidents/etc CAN be very intelligent. That’s what makes them superb psychopaths. The bubble crashes are perfectly engineered events that only prove my point [insert citations about vast compression of wealth before and after the bubble events]. They could not care less if a family commits sui-cide because they are now destitute. Or if an entire country goes into full riot mode because they are about to go bankrupt. That’s just data if they are even interested in those kinds of data points. Probably not. Plausible deniability.

    2. These days I am reading Maxwell’s Treatises (on office printed paper) while commuting to/from work on NYC subways. No one yet has stopped the subway, and that is encouraging, although, I must note, some people curiously glaze the pages exposing some not-usually-seen sequences of dark magic symbolism.

    3. “a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag”

      Who tried to strike up a conversation with Guido, and was brushed off.

      Perhaps she’s a Jersey midriff. Who never having been exposed to higher math, or men who ignore her because they’re using higher brain functions, could only make a conclusion based on paranoia fed to her by the mass media and swallowed without question.

      Yeah, not nice for me to say that. But I’d bet money I’m right.

      We can expect more of this. Especially since the DHS has reduced national security to a slogan, “If You See Something, Say Something”. Which doesn’t ask that you think about it, or even be capable of thinking. Just say something.

      No consequences so long as you’re “helping” with national security. Go ahead, hold up the flight for longer than necessary, by lying about being sick. You’ll get put on a separate flight too, so you won’t even have to suffer a incredulous look from an economics professor. The horror.

      1. Zero tolerance: every offence must be met with punishment. It is offensive to turn down an offered BJ, so the professor was rightly punished with a delay (the whole class of people on the plane was punished as usual, so it becomes social ostracism), but perhaps he was of the type who likes to be punished. Or perhaps the law is a bit void for vagueness, and should more explicitly oblige professors to accept BJ’s from bimbo’s…

  2. This is really the type of “unjust” suspicion because it has nothing to do with real-life possibility of any kind of thread. If reported, I think it should cause consequences for the person who reported them. For now, any kind of fool can cause all sorts of trouble for many people for any silly reason.

    1. I think this is more of an escalation that should have been stopped sooner. Whomever was in a position of authority (flight attendants, pilot, etc) should have assessed the situation, decided it wasn’t a threat, and then explained to the woman why they made the decision. Punishing the person reporting is counter-productive. I think it unlikely that she reported maliciously, after all her trip was interrupted as well. The bigger question is why she felt unsafe in the first place.

      1. Consider: the reason why the plane was turned back was because the woman said she was ill – not because she said there was a terrorist on-board.

        The news said she only revealed the true reason once they were grounded.

    2. I agree. this woman is a danger to not only Muslim travelers, but all travelers who value on-time arrivals.

      Letting her back on a plane should only be done after some sort of sensitivity training or something

  3. ” I’ve heard speculation that the woman might have thought the equations were Arabic. First of all, what? And secondly, what if it were? If a person is writing in Arabic on an airplane, that shouldn’t be cause for alarm.”

    Agreed– if they were *written* then presumably the author is going to want to land *safely* to communicate them to someone….

    1. Even spoken Arabic shouldn’t be an issue. Folks have been pulled off flights for Arabic FLASH CARDS. Terrorists know this. They would either speak English, or simply not speak. Then there’s the fact that lots of people can’t reliably identify Arabic, in the same way the number of hate crimes against Sikhs ticked up after 9/11.

      It’s hard to say whether the lady would have reported the professor if he were a blond-haired white guy. I don’t know which possibility would be worse.

    1. I firmly believe that everyone should be entitled to a vote.

      Whether they use it at the Presidential Elections or with America’s Got Talent shall be entirely up to them.

    1. Really. They’re symbols. Written with graphite or ink. On paper. They can’t hurt anyone. Causing offense isn’t hurting someone. It’s someone deciding to be offended by a symbol or group thereof. So yes, really. Actions can hurt people. Symbols cannot.

      1. That would be a really good argument, if the quote were “… could be physically harmful.”

        Symbols are meant for one thing, conveying ideas. Tell me, is there anything more dangerous than the (wrong|right) person with the (wrong|right) idea? In fact, I can think of quite a few pieces of paper with nothing but symbols on them that have arguably caused the deaths of untold numbers of living creatures.

        Say that a symbol cannot be harmful, and you might have a leg to stand on if we’re arguing semantics. Say that a symbol cannot be dangerous, and you’re just being naive.

  4. Honestly, this kind of crêpe makes me want to build a suspicious looking device just for the heck of it. You know the kind of thing, a Hollywood style countdown clock with colour-coded wires just begging to be cut. Hilarity ensues!

  5. He meant September 2001 – you know when the whole west was forced to accept that ‘Muslims hate our way of life’

    You do remember this? I strongly rejected that idea then, and still do. Most people did not reject it though – because if they did the entire media and status quo would be in disagreement with them. Now the status quo says if you think Muslims might be a danger, you are racist.. Such difficult mental gymnastics we are expected to routinely perform for the Military Industrial Complex and their Bankers.

    The example in the article above is abhorrent, and has almost no similarities to Ahmed and his ‘Clock’, which involved, again, a known trouble maker bringing a rigged up clock into class and setting it off…

      1. I am afraid I do not understand your comments. The man was mistaken for a Muslim, no?

        How do your statements relate to mine?

        The man was mistaken for a Muslim, and as is natural thanks to the reckless military adventurism and decade or longer of anti-muslim propaganda, we now have these ridiculous and regrettable issues.

        We can blame some dumb woman, or we can blame the sophisticated corporations, politicians, media, etc who have led us to this point.

        I see no point in blaming the woman except to avoid looking like a nut-job for bringing up the other more prescient things I mentioned, prescient as they obviously are.

        Timothy McVeigh is a type of terrorism maybe more prevalent in the 60s and early 70s, with the type of direct political action then, but certainly foreign to modern americans.

        Sorry but it is true.

          1. Conspiracy theories are real. Go read about operation northwoods, operation gladio, gulf of tonkin, etc.

            I said that we should hold media, military, etc. accountable. How is that a conspiracy?

            You are completely and totally intellectually dysfunctional. You have nothing going on upstairs. Sorry I made you uncomfortable pointing out just the tip of the tip of an iceberg to you.


          2. Larry – Yes the man was mistaken for a Muslim. Obviously. Duh.

            The WashPo article does not spell it out, but ALL of my statements are still valid. Care to comment on my actual statements?

            You think she thought he was an Italian terrorist, then, do you?

            Why are you so dishonest? Does it feel good or bad to lie like this?


      2. I do remember Timothy McVeigh. I remember people freaking out about that bombing. I’m talking about people who live over a thousand miles away and knew nobody even remotely involved that is. ‘Freaking Out’ when it’s your own loved ones being hurt is a very different matter. If any of you are reading this then I am sorry for your loss.


        I pretty quickly did a very rough estimate in my head… B = number of buildings that will be bombed in my remaining lifetime, T = total number of buildings, S = how scared I should be. S=B/T. This could be solved by considering just buildings in my immediate neighborhood, buildings in my country or buildings in the whole damn world. Either way it works out to Rs / Rb = Js or Really Small number dividided by a Really Big number = Jack Shit! I can even add a multiplier to include the probabilities for not just myself but all my loved ones and it still comes out essentially the same!!

        No… the equation didn’t really change in 2001 or any other year either.

      1. worse. fear of TSA and their goons.

        (I flew, just about a year ago, with some of my DIYs in carry-on, packed away so they would not get damaged. thru the scanner, $deity knows what they saw. but what did they stop me for? hard round candy that I took from a restaurant tray at the checkout. scary wire things? ok. hard candy? LOCK DOWN, CODE RED. sigh…)

        I’d also rather not fly if I can avoid it.

        1. Ive taken all sorts of outlandish stuff on carry-on. Never had a problem.

          But I am not saying TSA is pleasant or excusing them for their many documented excesses!

          I was once strip searched in Ireland at the airport though…

    1. It’s not like economists have gotten their act together enough to do more than point at some disaster and say “We should have been able to predict this.” Any good economist should have a billion dollars from the excellent investments they have made. Any of the poor enough to need to teach for a living are in astrologer territory.

      1. +0.5

        There are some scholars that (very big IMHO) have some good ideas what’s going on, but those do not tout the mainstream mantra (which is very profitable for a small crew at the top) that we have to live through, so they are not sponsored nor are their ideas or theories put into the powerful media that they would need to be in.

    2. Economists are WORSE than Terrorists these days! They certainly have destroyed far more lives and wealth than all the modern Terrorists combined. Modern Economics has evolved into a politically driven Social Justice Pseudo-Science. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go back to printing money made from thin air…

  6. If she feigned illness just because she changed her mind about the trip she would be arrested.
    If she feigned illness as a ruse for some other purpose she would be arrested.

    There must be a mechanism in place to prevent just any ignorant half wit from causing a plane to reverse course. If they lie about the reasons perhaps a little jail time is in order. She effectively prevented a sanity check by the hopefully more reasonable flight crew.

    1. I do not think she “simulated or pretended; insincere” her illness.
      She worried herself sick.

      I wonder if the airline refunded her money or gave her another flight with out charge.
      (two flights, one charge)

    2. I absolutely agree. There may be regulations in place already to cover that sort of thing. I am not an attorney, but I would hope someone whom forces a plane to make a unscheduled landing for no reason would at least be fined.

  7. Now, if the equation were E=MC^2 and the man looked like Einstein the woman might have had a case.

    But you cannot blame the woman for being stupid anymore than you can blame a woman for being ugly. At the moment the entire Earth has a good chance of becoming uninhabitable because of weather or nuclear weapons and almost everybody is doing almost nothing to stop it and the most powerful people seem rather enthusiastic about implementing it. Blame humanity for being stupid if you want, but that’s the limitation of the species. Maybe the next smart species will make the grade. This one seems toast.

    1. >But you cannot blame the woman for being stupid anymore than you can blame a woman for being ugly.

      as the great philosopher redd foxx used to say ‘ugly is only skin deep, but stupid is to the bone!’

    2. Umm… what is the danger of sitting next to the guy who is designing the bomb that will destroy the world as he designs it? Wake me when he pulls out a couple chunks of weapons grade uranium, a stick of dynamite and a hard shell to keep it all together.

    1. It used to be fine before the neocons took over USA and forced us to fear and hate as part of their profit and power generating schemes.

      Dont vote for neocons.

  8. When I was 14 on a flight to the U.S. from Japan, I remember being so enthralled with what I had learned from my Physics classes I wanted to apply the mathematics everywhere. So when they kept telemetry data up the whole flight on the big screen, including velocity and altitude, I started sketching out scenarios and crunching numbers. It wasn’t until after I had drawn out the scenario of our plane’s engines stopping and crashing down, calculating how much horizontal distance that would cover, did I realize how sketchy that looked and hid my paper. Somebody would’ve had MUCH better reason to report me to the crew.

    Tl;dr: kids are dumb.

  9. From the usatoday article: a “blond-haired 30-something woman ”
    That explains it, no science, no math, no engineering, and blond !!
    No wonder.
    ( :D )

  10. So what is the probability that somewhere in the USA there is a completely neurotic and idiotic person, given this data http://www.census.gov/popclock/ ?

    I guess it could be worse, the statistics say there should also be 3,214,420 psychopaths and given only 25% of the prison population are psychopaths that means that there are over 2.5 million of them on the streets, and aircraft, of the USA.

    Makes you wonder why crazy shit doesn’t happen more regularly.

      1. Are sociopaths and psychopaths the same thing? Not exactly, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

        And yeah given psychopathy does not reduce IQ I see no reason why half of them would not be above average. That would be the ones on the streets, smart enough to not get incarcerated, and a significant number of them would have a MENSA level IQ too just because of how the numbers work out.

  11. what she did was low, and only proved either her lack of education or lack of intellegence.

    the kind of person reporting H.A.D. to the FBI because they think this site is teaching people how to commit
    “unauthorized access of computer system” (with OR without hacking)

    in the case of H.A.D. i’d say she would be submitting evidence WITHOUT FIRST READING IT, or she did not understand it.


    she also admitted how she initially lied, okay, so she’s a habitutial lier and her later story is therefore not admissable in court, good luck arguing to a judge about a parking ticket in the future! they may bring this up.

    if you think something is wrong, get off your lazy, self-serving ass and make the report the FIRST time, this way people will be able to ascertain that you are wrong without having to return to the gate.

    any time a plane is grounded while still on the tarmac people will have to fill out paper-work; this takes time. this is because of how much MONEY it takes to start and run the engines for the trip back to the gate.

    1. Wrong. Perjury is knowingly telling a court false information. In this case the woman either lacked the intelligence and / or background to understand what she was seeing. It is the reason “eye witness” testimony has so little influence in court cases.
      Being stupid is not a crime.

      1. what im trying to say is that she did not know what was written, but somehow just KNEW it was about terror, how would she know what was written if she HERSELF mentioned that she did not know what was written?

        proof that she knew she was lying
        … the writing … that i can not read … says terror …

        either that or she is not competent to be on a plane without her guardian present and the airline should not have let someone on that does not even know what she knows… or was just so high she should not have been in public at the time?

        “DO YOU SPEAK IT?”

        she does not know arabic and even admitted it, yet she somehow read enough of it to conclude it was terror. she’s a lier and shoud be charged with such. lying to airliner staff about safety issues is ILLEGAL and she should be punished as such. i hope someone sues to get them to charge her, at least for the fuel she wasted, which is about how much i make a year.

        “a boob for all seasons”

      2. and being stupid SHOULD be a crime, well, at least should be removed from everyone else’s right to exist without being harrassed / shamed / questioned / ect

  12. Bomb-Clock-Boy, son of a Muslim agitator, TOOK APART a clock, badly, made it look like a bomb, and got what his father wanted. You clowns keep pushing the agenda to a crowd that took one look at it and asked real questions, unlike you Reporters-Trying-To-Act-Like-Nerds.

  13. One of the points of the article seems to be about math literacy, which is not only low in this country but also seen as exotic. I recall vividly being cut from a jury (as were 50-75 others in line in front of me because we had “studied any kind of math or physics post high school”. I took and take this as a personal affront. I’m sure most people would object to a jury screening requiring that no person be allowed who had studied any type of reading or literature post high school. The only thing to conclude us they their plan was to parade wrong numbers in from of people who can’t understand them to commit fraud.

    1. The courts are a huge part of a successful fraud. If a scam artist does not plan all the way through courts, or maybe use courts as their enforcer and extortion arm, they themselves will end up in prison quicker.

      if at all.. Fraud, of course, is strongly encouraged in USA.

  14. This is getting dumber by the day.
    Engineers and scientists all over the world should stand together and make some new rules.
    Like, everybody to get on a plane has to answer a scientific question first, or so.

    Honestly, I don’t know why I get up every day, to solve technical problems for people that are too dumb to walk straight, but make all the rules.

    1. Haha I think asking her ‘what’s 2 + 2’ she would call security.
      I can’t believe that this really happened. I kept waiting for the news to say it was fake or something. Nobody draw any ideas for clocks or radios. Someone ignorant will call Seal Team Six. I feel so bad for all of the crew and passengers.
      Except for her. No fly list for stupid idiots.

      1. No. Never read the book but after a quick Google I’m not sure what you thought I meant. I consider myself an independent and am not happy with any of the candidates. I’m not even sure what to think, including here.

  15. Oh, how I wish I had been working that flight! But, then you wouldn’t be reading about it on Hackaday. You see, I am a captain for Air Wisconsin, and I have worked the Philadelphia to Syracuse flight many times. For the record we are not owned by American, but are a subcontractor. Not only am I a hacker, and Hackaday reader, but I have lived in Italy and speak Italian. I would have liked to meet Guido. I did have passengers bring up racist concerns about some middle eastern passengers once, and I resolved it quickly and respectfully, such that nobody read about it in the news, we were not delayed, and I am confident that the passengers in question felt that I stuck up for them. Living over seas does wonders for your perspective.

    1. You would think that being rational should be a huge part of any pilots job, let alone the captain. And I’m sure the vast majority of you guys are. Thank you for getting all of us to our destinations safe and on time. For someone that suffered severe flight anxiety for a long time, it’s always good to know the guys in the front seats are level headed!

    2. Love your comment, but you couldn’t have done anything else in that situation as the woman didn’t reveal that she ‘spotted a terrorist’ but instead faked sickness.
      She lied.
      She should be prosecuted.

      PS: keep up the good work and fly safe!

  16. The Problem isn’t education.

    It’s fear. And the paranoia this fear causes.

    “Our Leaders” managed to put so much fear in us, that every means to achive “more security” are warmly welcomed, even if it means stripping away basic rights like free speech and anonymity.

    Sheep are best controlled by fear…

    1. OK this is about maths, so let us do the maths, even if you could give me 320 examples of people being idiots like in the story they would still only constitute 1 millionth of the population. So how is it any less irrational to conclude anything about other people from the actions of that one idiotic person?

      1. It’s the people that listened to her and didn’t take ten seconds to see that there was no danger. If the economics professor had started shouting when confronted that would have been another story. But no; he’s like ‘what’s up guys? I’ve got some final calculations to do for my job’ and the whole flight is screwed. Multiple people are at fault here. Not just the paranoid lady.
        And that’s terrible.

        1. Read the story elsewhere.. She feigned sickness, then made the complaint at a time when it was past evaluating the situation.

          She was presumably having a panic attack.

          She should probably be in some sort of trouble.

        2. Even if you give me 250,000 examples of day to day idiocy it is still under 0.1% of the populations. i.e. The entire story is, statistically speaking, not worthy of note as a single event nor has it been presented as being part of a pattern or cluster of events that would be significant. It is behavioural noise and trying to see more in it that that is bordering on schizoid or “magical” thinking.

          Given that you are blind to this reality I class you in the same category as the woman. Think about that for a while, because I am serious.

      2. Dan, there are thousands of examples of people being idiots like in the story.. Thousands a year. Per country.. Most dont make it to national media.

        Why did the woman fear arabic numerals and a olive complexion?

        Because of 9-11, san bernardino, tv like CSI, etc.

        Duh man.. Why do you refuse to admit it?

  17. More of these incidents are going to happen, if the process of dumbing down our society takes up speed. And it will: “The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions” is a book by a guy named Andrew Hacker (!) which got way too much attention lately (basically, the author demands higher mathematics to be dropped from a lot of college programs). If you ask the question “qui bono?”, the answer is clear: for instance, more private colleges can hand out degrees in BS, thus generating more revenue. … So, instead of raising the bar, the author writes (not sure if he actually believes it) that we should lower the thresholds and flood the job market with lesser-qualified graduates. Graduates that no-one will hire, as employers already now complain about a significant drop in skills and knowledge, which has been resulting in high costs through extended on-the-job training periods…

  18. Please this is not a Hack. This is politics. All stories like this will ever do is generate a flame war and name calling. Let other outlets deal with this kind of story and lets keep HAD about AVR vs PIC vs Cortext M0 vs FPGA and SPI vs I2C. If we must got down the rabbit hole ESP2866 vs Arduino and Raspberry PI vs BeagleBone.
    BTW coolest 8bits.
    1. Commodore 64 SID and VIC baby.
    2. Apple II family. Woz and slots.
    3. Atari 400/800 Player Missile graphics.
    4. Radio Shack CoCo OS-9
    5. And S-100 system the owner built themselves.

      1. The thing is that most people on HAD know a lot about MCUs and not a whole lot about politics. If I want to see a lot of flammable comments about politics I would just read the comments on cnn.

  19. I am not 100% on this because for obvious reason TSA and the airline dont like to discuss it. I believe once some one says terrorist if ceases to be an airline issue and the TSA owns it. I honestly tont think the pilots nor the fight attendants have any say in the matter.

    1. Blue smoke you are absolutely wrong. I happen to be a captain for the same Airline and as such I own everything that happens on my aircraft. Anything that I choose to elevate gets elevated and everything I choose to stop with me stops with me. I have to be prepared to defend my decisions if challenged at some point, but that will be after the fact. This is why zero tolerance is a bad policy. If you institutionally remove the authority to make judgement calls and stop absurd over reactions, you end up with results like we see more of now, such as kindergarden children charged with sexual harassment, or math practitioners accused of terrorism. In this case the captain should have stopped the process at him (or her). Either the captain lost control of the situation, and outside authorities got pulled in (this can happen when the aircraft is still at the gate and an agent gets involved without going through the captain), or the captain neglected to use their inherent authority to shut down the absurd progression of events. People seem to have developed a fear of standing on principle and using their own judgement. I have the fortune of working in a clearly defined environment (my aircraft) and having full authority within that environment. I have to be prepared to answer for myself, but on my plane the buck stops with me. I am willing to answer for my decisions, and I am also willing to stand up to the kind of absurdity that we see in this case. I have done it before and will do it again.

      1. George Stuart – what about your passenger air marshal(s)? What authority do they have on your airplane? I wonder how they would have reacted if they noticed this going on.
        “Hey, sir let me see those maths! Hmmmm, it seems you put this in there incorrectly…”
        “Yes sir what would that be?”
        “This: ∞-1 – that clearly looks Muslim or sumtin’… You’re right ma’am this guy’s clearly a terrorist!”
        …and then the air marshal’s laugh, shaking their heads, and sit back down in their seats… you can hear one of them saying “what a moron!”

  20. It could have been worse… up until a few centuries ago, the ignorant woman seeing her neighbor do something she didn’t understand and getting suspicious about it would have rounded up her neighbors with their pitchforks and had Guido burned at the stake in the town square. We’ve come a long way! Belief that other people can control supernatural powers is at an all-time low in the developed world, but people don’t change, so instead of directing our irrational fears at witches we find other targets… Communists were a good one, they got a good run for about half of the last century but then they kinda fizzled out. Child-snatching pedophiles were around every corner for a while (until we got those reassuring sex-offender registries set up to keep track of them)… Hackers have been there on the fringe of the mystery/danger spectrum ever since Ferris Bueller nearly started a global thermonuclear war back in ’83 (he was trying to impress Allison Reynolds… she was pretty hot without all that black stuff on her eyes)… Islamic-ish terrorists are all the rage lately, even though you’re far more likely to be killed or maimed by a drunk driver in the US than a terrorist.

  21. Got “Idiocracy”? people just consider “difficult” to tap on apps of cellphone, integrals on can sound as unknown, and unknown is dangerous by itself. the real situation is that outside there there are billions of ignorant people an thousend of millons of them are located in USA. They spend billion of dollars for army and peanuts for education, they can drive a car but don’t know by what chemical reactions make them to move. got a beer, look Superball, don’t care education. American Way…..

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