My friend is ziptying frames of PVC pipe together to pack up the set pieces for our masquerade act.
Friend: I’m trying to make sure these don’t come apart. It’s a topology problem. There. Will those stay together?
::I pick up the frame pieces and shake them::
Me: Yup. (beat) Notice how I did that like an experimentalist rather than a theoretician. Instead of proving it was solid, I tested it.
That night, we are verifying we’ve pinned the backdrops correctly for our sewing-capable friend to sew them. We are momentarily concerned because we’ve pinned the Velcro parallel to the direction of sewing rather than perpendicular to it.
Sewing-Capable Friend: Parallel is fine, as long as they’re all pointed away from the direction I’m sewing in so I can pull them out as I go.
::other friend and I look at each other::
Me: Did we do that?
Other Friend: Well, it’s a binary choice. Either we did or we didn’t . . . fifty-fifty chance . . .
Me: But the chance we did it right on all of them is more like one-half to the power of how many pins we put in—
Other Friend: True, except the probabilities for the rest of the pins were probably conditioned on the direction of the first, because I think we kept going in the same direction.
::we look at sewing-capable friend::
Me: Uh, we’ll check.
Later, when finding our car in the parking garage, which is structured with a concrete pillar every three cars:
Friend #1: Where did we park?
Friend #2: Well, I remember it wasn’t next to a pillar.
Friend #1: Technically, that does diminish the possibilities by 2/3.
Me: Yes, but that 2/3 is a sieve across the whole parking lot, so it doesn’t actually limit our search area!
Just before masquerade, a regular con-goer approaches my friend, who is also a regular con-goer.
Regular Con-Goer: I hear your group this year is like . . . you guys, plus like five MIT people.
My Friend: That’s not entirely inaccurate.