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The IAF like girls.

84% of the children of Israeli air force fighter pilots are girls.

- The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

Explanations please!


  1. CountingCats says:


    Or – Girlies are wonderful things, don’t question it, just be happy it is happening.

  2. Bod says:

    Tight seat-harnesses.

  3. RAB says:

    Presumably this will be the same statistic in any airforce in the world, if it is just to do with the mere act of flying.

    So could it be anything to do with Circumcision?

    You know when you’re pulling some heavy Gs, the girl sperm rushes to the front and the boy sperm to the back of the ‘ol pork sword?

  4. Kevin B says:

    Fighter pilots, like F1 drivers, tend to be on the small side. Does size influence the gender of offspring?

    I’ve heard that lots of testosterone causes more girl babies, (and that baldness is a sign of excess testosterone). Of course, I’ve heard this theory mostly from small, bald men with more girls than boys in their families.

  5. NickM says:

    Oh, dear!

    Bod, RAB, Kevin (sort of – you redeem yourself)… Cats was right.

    It’s to do with sample size and arbitariness. It’s also to do with something related to confirmation bias. the 84% figure is odd but then so is the selected sample out of all the parents in the world. IAF fighter pilots are 100s out of billions. I bet there is a similar sized group that could be defined where it’s 84% boys.

    To take the argument to the ultimate divvying-up of society I once shared a flat with a lad with three brothers and no sister. That’s 100% boys for Phil’s parents.

    There are two lessons here. I mentioned confirmation bias. It’s sort of like that. You present an odd statistic and naturally people look for a causal explanation for it even if in the grand scheme of things it’s noise rather than signal.

    The second derives from the first and is the fatal flaw of all “equality” programmes. How you split us along all sorts of lines of sex, race, education, nationality, hair colour, weight, favourite sports team, religion, whatever! enables all sorts of meaningless inequalities to be found because these are all artificial distinctions in the sense that what is considered worth looking into by the compilers of such studies is essentially arbitary. Perhaps in the UK height is more of a determiner of income than race but one appears on “equal ops” forms and the other doesn’t. And then there are the myriad interactions… Maybe height doesn’t influence the pay of women in charter accountancy. It probably does in modelling – fashion models are paid more than glamour ones afterall.

  6. Bod says:

    Nick, I’m ashamed of you! It’s Tuesday, you threatened us off of any Doctor Who-Related discussions, and here we are 4 days after you were going to see the show – and – nada.



    And you go and post a puzzle. One you want us to take seriously?

    <fx shakes fist at heavens in frustration />

  7. NickM says:

    Well, Bod,
    I’ve been away for the weekend. Lot of catch-up. I’ve just posted something else which was kicking about the HD for some time.

  8. RAB says:

    Yeah Bod, he has had a hard but enjoyable weekend trying to get a word in edgeways. I’ll say no more.

    You know what a scientific genius I am dont you young Sir?
    I approach you puzzles in much the same way as Alan Davies does questions in QI.

  9. MarkyMark says:

    84% does sound ridiculously high.

    But if it is true it may have something to do with the mothers rather than the pilots. I recall reading that dominant high-testosterone women are far more likely to have boys. It’s possible then that go-getter dominant masculine pilots mate with feminine girly girls who are more likely to have a girl than a boy (although I can’t see this accounting for all of the 84%).

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