Whitney Tilson‘s email to investors discussing his analogy to what Alex Honnold did free soloing El Cap.
I was thinking last night of an analogy to what Alex Honnold did free soloing El Cap, which partly explains why I think it’s the greatest athletic achievement of all time:
It would be as if Stef Curry had to make two layups every minute for four hours – 480 in a row, equivalent to the routine moves Honnold had to make on the climb – PLUS had to make one free throw per hour (equivalent to the four hardest moves he had to make).
But here’s the catch: hovering over the court is a huge stab of concrete which, if Curry misses any of those 484 shots, crashes down, crushing him instantly – so he has to perform flawlessly for four hours, with the unimaginable pressure of imminent death literally hanging over him.
Here are his odds of survival:
Let’s say Curry makes 99.9% of his layups – only misses 1 in 1,000. Do 0.999 to the 480th power and you get 0.619 – meaning there’s a 38% chance that he misses one of those 480 layups.
As for the four free throws, he’s a lifetime 90% free throw shooter (3rd highest all time). Do 0.9 raised to the 4th power and you get 0.656 – meaning there’s a 34% chance he misses one of those four free throws.
Total odds of failure: 0.619 x 0.656 = 0.406 – a 59% chance of dying.
This is the hard math of free soloing – and why virtually everyone who’s ever done it is dead. The laws of large numbers and randomness are almost certain to catch up with you eventually, which is why I hope Honnold stops doing it.