London Grip presents a small fable for our times –
but one that is possibly being shared a decade too late

 VaR_diagram
The Mathematicians and the Economists
(with thanks to Bruce Christianson)
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Three mathematicians and three economists were going to attend a conference. At the railway station the three economists got to the ticket office first and bought three tickets. The mathematicians however bought only one ticket between them. The economists were curious and made a point of sitting near the mathematicians on the train to see what would happen when the ticket inspector came around.
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The mathematicians were careful to sit in the middle of the carriage so that they would have a little warning whichever direction the inspector approached from. Then, as soon as he was in sight, the three of them hurried to the nearest vacant toilet and squeezed themselves inside. The inspector, according to his usual custom, banged on the toilet door and called out ‘ticket inspector – anyone there?’ whereupon a single hand emerged holding the single ticket which was duly punched.
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The economists were greatly impressed by the mathematicians’ astute tactics and probably thought of little else throughout the conference. For the return train journey therefore they bought only one ticket between the three of them; but their self-satisfaction was somewhat diminished when they saw that the mathematicians did not buy a ticket at all.
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The two groups followed much the same plan  as before once they were on board the train and sat near to each other in the middle of a carriage. On seeing the ticket inspector approaching, the economists (who were the slightly younger group) moved more quickly and were first to reach the nearest toilet. When they heard an official-sounding banging on the door they confidently held out their ticket – which the mathematicians took from them and carried off to the next available toilet.
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Moral: Laypersons consorting with mathematicians are particularly vulnerable when they allow themselves to believe they have understood what the mathematicians are really up to.