Heroic Passenger Recognizes Quantitative Economics as True Threat to America


Forget ethnic profiling. The real danger facing America these days is economists and their differential equations:

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive-skinned and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

….The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over….He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

….Then, for unknown reasons, the plane turned around and headed back to the gate….Finally the pilot came by, locking eyes on the real culprit behind the delay: that darkly-complected foreign man….The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed. He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or some other terrorist code. They were math. Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

It’s about goddam time, I say. Personally, I’d say that economists and their math have done a lot more damage to the world recently than terrorists and their bombs. We owe this flip-flop-wearing woman our thanks.

On a more serious note, can it really be true that no one recognized what decorated young Italian economist Guido Menzio was doing? Sure, maybe his seatmate didn’t recognize math. But neither the flight attendant nor the pilot recognized math-ish scribblings when they came back to take a look at things? “What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia?” Menzio wrote on Facebook. “It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base.” And that’s quite true: Donald Trump is notoriously an idiot at math. I suppose his followers are too.

POSTSCRIPT: You know what’s missing from this story? The actual page of math Menzio was working on in the plane. Admit it: you want to see it too. You’re all such a bunch of nerds.