"How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

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ekolis
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"How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

Postby ekolis » Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:50 pm UTC

I realized the other day that if I'm asked a question of the form "How many X can Y survive?" that I answer as if it were asked "How many X will it take to destroy Y?" - that is, one more than the answer to the original question! Is this a common mistake, or am I just crazy?
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Re: "How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:34 pm UTC

Do you have any examples of specific things where people say this? I imagine that most of the time, the numbers are high enough that a difference of 1 is less than the errors on the estimate itself.
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ekolis
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Re: "How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

Postby ekolis » Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:53 pm UTC

Well, actually, this question was prompted by this post I made on reddit... I said that a sandwich can survive five bites from the Heavy in TF2, but later realized that after five bites, the sandwich is gone, so the sandwich could actually only survive four!
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Re: "How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

Postby Lynx Cat » Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:22 pm UTC

Well, yeah. To me it seems pretty obvious that "survive" entails "before dying/being destroyed". So, in the original wording, if Y is destroyed by (n) X, then Y can survive (n-1) X. As long as the estimate is precise enough that 1 will make a difference, as gmalivuk pointed out...
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Re: "How many X can Y survive" fallacy - is this common?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:10 am UTC

I don't play TF2, but if I have some sort of $healing_item I'm generally not going to be concerned with its survival. It doesn't matter to me how long I can continue to have at least some portion of a healing item in my inventory; what matters is how many times I can use it. So, I just don't expect people to ask me how many uses it can survive. If someone does ask a question like that, I'll probably quickly assume they used a weird phrasing and answer what I would expect them to be asking: how many times can $healing_item be used?

In contrast, when you're talking about something like the survival of a player character, in general the question literally is "How many hits can this guy survive?", and not "How much use can we get out of this guy's health bar?" So, it's more natural to talk about how Chansey can survive Machamp's Submission. (If I'm the guy with Machamp, though, I'm probably also going to be thinking about how it will take two Submissions to knock out Chansey.)
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