survivalists [a Riddler’s riddle]

April 21, 2019

(This article was first published on R – Xi'an's Og, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

A neat question from The Riddler on a multi-probability survival rate:

Nine processes are running in a loop with fixed survivals rates .99,….,.91. What is the probability that the first process is the last one to die? Same question with probabilities .91,…,.99 and the probability that the last process is the last one to die.

The first question means that the realisation of a Geometric G(.99) has to be strictly larger than the largest of eight Geometric G(.98),…,G(.91). Given that the cdf of a Geometric G(a) is [when counting the number of attempts till failure, included, i.e. the Geometric with support the positive integers]

F(x)=\Bbb P(X\le x)=1-a^{x}

the probability that this happens has the nice (?!) representation

\sum_{x=2}^\infty a_1^{x-1}(1-a_1)\prod_{j\ge 2}(1-a_j^{x-1})=(1-a_1)G(a_1,\ldots,a_9)

which leads to an easy resolution by recursion since


and G(a)=a/(1-a)

and a value of 0.5207 returned by R (Monte Carlo evaluation of 0.5207 based on 10⁷ replications). The second question is quite similar, with solution

\sum_{x=2}^\infty a_1^{x-1}(1-a_1)\prod_{j\ge 1}(1-a_j^{x})=a^{-1}(1-a_1)G(a_1,\ldots,a_9)

and value 0.52596 (Monte Carlo evaluation of 0.52581 based on 10⁷ replications).

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