Can Rex Morgan Be Made Plausible?


'And ... My batting average of predicting the [unborn child's] sex is 97% accurate!'

The comic strip Rex Morgan, MD, put up an interesting bit of nonsense in its current ridiculous story. (Rex and June are investigating a condo where nobody’s been paying rent; the residents haven’t because everyone living there is strippers who’re raising money for a cancer-stricken compatriot; the details are dopier, and much more slowly told, than this makes it sound.) But on the 7th this month it put up one of those things that caught me. Never mind the claim that Delores here (the cancer-stricken woman) puts up about being able to sense pregnancy. She claims she can predict the sex of the unborn child with 97 percent accuracy.

Is that plausible? Well, she may be just making the number up, since putting a decimal or a percentage into a number carries connotations of “only a fool would dare question me” similar to those of holding a clipboard and glaring at it while walking purposefully around. If she’s doing ordinary human-style rounding off, that could mean that she’s guessed five of six pregnancies correctly. I could believe a person thinking that makes her 97 percent accurate, but I wouldn’t be convinced by the claim and I doubt you would either.

So here’s a little recreational puzzle for you: how many pregnancies would Delores have to have predicted, and how many called accurately, for the claim of 97 percent accuracy to be hard to dismiss? How many until it isn’t clearly just luck or a small sample size?

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