Penn Professor Thrown Off Plane After Woman Sees Him Doing Strange Notations . . . That Turn Out To Be Math Calculations

1462648388625 I am not sure what is more disturbing: the ease with which irrational passengers can get other people thrown off flights or the dismal state of math in the United States that calculations are now unrecognizable to many passengers. University of Pennsylvania economics professor Guido Menzio, an award winning mathematician, was asked to leave a flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse because a woman sitting next to him panicked at the sight of his scribbling some strange code on papers. It turns out Menzio was trying to solve a differential equation. Ironically, the very fact that he was using a plus sign in his equations showed that he was not an Islamic extremist.

Menzio was on his way to Ontario, Canada and was engrossed in the equation. The woman next to him said that she was concerned that he was not talkative and gave a note to the flight attendant that she was not feeling well. She later told the flight attendant that she was fearful of Menzio who was then escorted off the flight.

Menzio was clueless about the reason and thought that they were asking about the woman, who he described as a bit odd. Then it became clear that they were really interested in him. Menzio showed the police that this is called mathematics.

We have previously discussed the ease with which people are removed from flights, including when they are Muslim. The standards appear entirely undefined and inconsistent.

The 41-minute flight took off more than two hours after its scheduled departure. The woman apparently did not rejoin the flight.

It is not clear why at least one person could not easily recognize math and the obvious fact that this was a ridiculous overreaction.

Of course, mathematician E.T. Bell once warned “Obvious is the most dangerous word in mathematics.”

Source: FOX

31 thoughts on “Penn Professor Thrown Off Plane After Woman Sees Him Doing Strange Notations . . . That Turn Out To Be Math Calculations”

  1. TSA was founded in November, 2001. Might that account for the reason TSA did not discover any of the 9/11 hijackers? Just a thought.

  2. I think the basic NEW RULE, as Bill Maher might say, is that the complainant should be escorted off the plane and invited to take a later flight. Although it appears that this professor was not thrown off the plane, it is all too often the case that it is the innocent passenger is indeed thrown off, while the whiner gets to continue on his/her merry way. This is fundamentally unfair.

    I’d also say that, as long as the current practice persists, the innocent passenger should be able to sue the person who made the wrongful complaint. The complainers just need to shut up. That’s why we have TSA.

    Has there ever been a case where an alarmist passenger has discovered a “terrorist” that the TSA inspectors had not found out? Another myth along the lines of the “good guy with a gun.”

    1. Precambrian Rabbit – the passengers found the guy lighting his shoelaces and jumped him. And then of course there is the fourth hijacked 9/11 plane where the passengers sacrificed themselves to stop the plane flying into either the WH or the Capitol. TSA found none of them.

  3. I thought you might get a kick out of this post written by Robert Bruce on another website:

    A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a compass, a ancient wooden device called a “slide-rule” and a calculator.

    At a morning press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-Gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

    “Al-Gebra is a problem for us,” the Attorney General said. “Al-Gebra has terrorized many young people for years. They derive solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values. They use secret code names like ‘X’ and ‘Y’ and refer to themselves as ‘unknowns,’ but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates
    in every country.”

    As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, “There are 3 sides to every triangle.'” When asked to comment on the arrest, President Obama said, “If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes.”

    White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President. It is believed that another Nobel Prize will follow.

  4. QUOTE “The woman apparently did not rejoin the flight.”

    Hopefully she got a flight to the loony bin….

  5. His photo has him looking a bit dorky. If things do not add up then question them liively.

  6. Karen S., the idea that people perceive they have to look into every reported incident is part of the problem. Just like CPS reports, the investigation starts-and should often end- with the reporting party. Okay, you saw him writing something (or speaking) in a language you don’t recognize. and he didn’t talk to you. Anything else? No? Okay–Complaint evaluated out–nothing suspicious reported. Two arab-looking men were speaking to each other in arabic. Anything else-no. Okay–Complaint evaluated out–nothing suspicious reported. I don’t blame the idiots reporting so much as those who decide to respond inappropriately to reports of normal human conduct.

  7. It is my understanding that this was dismissed pretty quickly. I could be wrong, but I thought he was not thrown off the plane. Rather, he was questioned, the whole matter resolved, and then everyone went on their merry, delayed, way.

    We live in a litigious society. Every time anyone gets hurt or distressed, the lawyers come running and there are often massive payouts. When a plane crashes, not only does everyone sue, we all want to know if it was preventable.

    As soon as anyone, sane or not, rational or not, says that they had concerns about a fellow passenger being a danger to the plane, it is required that they look into it. I think this matter could have been resolved in 30 seconds, rather than 2 hours, but I’m sure there was a lot involved – notify security, wait for them to arrive, quietly escort him off the plane, ask what he was doing, take a picture of his differential equation to post on the wall of stupid reasons planes were delayed, apologize profusely, offer him coupons, get him back on the plane, put the plane back into line with ATC… I hope they made an announcement to the other passengers that this man was working on differential equations, and he was innocent, so no one was nervously sweating about why the heck he was taken off and then put back on.

    It’s a pain.

    I’m wondering if an airline attendant couldn’t have just taken a peek at his mathematical equations. But perhaps their safety protocol is not to ask a single question while onboard, because if he’s a crazed homicidal maniac, you mustn’t upset him while surrounded by civilians.

    Anyone upset by someone working on math equations (or any other kind of work) on a plane might have mental issues of her own. There are imbalanced people who travel (and fly) with us every day. And, yes, sometimes they do hold up things.

    But here’s the airline’s point of view. Let’s say a passenger said something felt off about a fellow passenger. They blew her off without asking a single question of the passenger. He blew up the plane. A few hundred people died. And then they have to defend that decision to all their grieving families. They really do have to investigate every single complaint, no matter how stupid. They just need to perhaps streamline the process to hustle through the false alarms. If they had Mossad type security, they could have figured this out with the guy still in his seat. But, we have civilian security, so this is the best we can do.

    1. “But here’s the airline’s point of view. Let’s say a passenger said something felt off about a fellow passenger. They blew her off without asking a single question of the passenger. He blew up the plane. A few hundred people died. And then they have to defend that decision to all their grieving families.”

      How would they know? Better yet, escort the complaining passenger off the plane and let us be on our way.

  8. “I don’t know what’s more ignorant, her republican induced paranoia or

    ..or Riccardo, I suppose, for arguing facts not in evidence.
    It’s not like the Democrats have been arguing for the TSA to be scaled back.

  9. I don’t see where the linked article says he was thrown off the plane. All the versions I read were that he remained on the plane. Also the articles I read didn’t say the police were involved. It was American Airlines security that spoke to him..

    1. Riccardo Cabeza – was there something in the article that pointed out that she was a Republican. I have known plenty of Democracts who couldn’t add, much less do differential calculus.

  10. Just to be clear, professor Menzio was questioned about what he was writing, but he was back on the plane after he explained. The airline told the innumerate passenger who was worried that she could take another flight if she was worried. That was a much more reasonable and just resolution than received by the passenger professor Turley reported on last week.

    BTW, I love the E.T. Bell quote. He wrote a book of biographies of mathematicians that was very engaging.

  11. Better to be thrown off the plane than off the building.

    At least there is that.

  12. This guy gets is from both sides. He also has to stop using the ‘+’ sign. And, isn’t it perfect. A woman concerned that an introverted mathematician isn’t “talkative.” He probably didn’t want to converse w/ her about her 17 cats.

  13. Here is what really happened. They removed him because they thought he was a dangerous snake. The woman had reported that she was sitting next to an adder.

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