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18.

440: Probability and Random Variables


Problem Set 1
Jonathan Kelner
Handed out: Monday, February 9th
Due: Wednesday, February 18th, at the beginning of lecture
On this problem set, all of the problems are straight out of our textbook, A First Course in Probability.
(Problem numbers are from the 8th Edition.) In case you have another edition, I have reproduced the
questions below.
For each question on the problem set, please write a list of everyone with whom you collaborated on that
problem. If you did not collaborate with anyone, please explicitly write, No collaborators.
Chapter 1, Theoretical Exercise 12(a): Consider the following combinatorial identity:
 
n
X
n
k
= n 2n1
k
k=1

Present a combinatorial argument for the above by considering a set of n people and determining, in two
ways, the number of possible selections of a committee of any size and a chairperson for the committee.
Hint:
i. How many possible selections are there of a committee of size k and its chairperson?
ii. How many possible selections are there of a chairperson and the other committee members?
Chapter 2, Problem 5: A system is composed of 5 components, each of which is either working or failed.
Consider an experiment that consists of observing the status of each component, and let the outcome of the
experiment be given by the vector (x1 , x2 , x3 , x4 , x5 ), where xi is equal to 1 if component i is working and
is equal to 0 if component i is failed.
(a) How many outcomes are in the sample space of this experiment?
(b) Suppose that the system will work if components 1 and 2 are both working, or if components 3 and 4
are both working, or if components 1, 3, and 5 are all working. Let W be the event that the system
will work. Specify all the outcomes in W .
(c) Let A be the event that components 4 and 5 are both failed. How many outcomes are contained in the
event A?
(d) Write out all the outcomes in the event AW .
Chapter 2, Problem 56: Two players play the following game. Player A chooses one of the three spinners
pictured in Figure 1, and then player B chooses one of the remaining two spinners. Both players then spin
their spinner and the one that lands on the higher number is declared the winner. Assuming that each
spinner is equally likely to land in any of its 3 regions, would you rather be player A or player B? Explain
your answer!
1

Figure 1: Picture for Chapter 2, Problem 56.


Chapter 2, Theoretical Exercise 5; For any sequence of events E1 , E2 , . . . , define a new sequence
F1 , F2 , . . . of disjoint events (that is, events such that Fi Fj = whenever i 6= j) such that for all n 1,
n
[

Fi =

Chapter 2, Theoretical Exercise 7:

n
[

Ei

Find the simplest expression for the following events:

(a) (E F )(E F c );
(b) (E F )(E c F )(E F c );
(c) (E F )(F G).
Chapter 2, Theoretical Exercise 11: If P (E) = .9 and P (F ) = .8, show that P (EF ) .7 In general,
prove Bonferronis inequality, namely
P (EF ) P (E) + P (F ) 1.
Chapter 2, Theoretical Exercise 16: Use induction to generalize Bonferronis inequality to n events.
Namely, show that
P (E1 E2 En ) P (E1 ) + + P (En ) (n 1).