And then the kangaroo said, "did you bring the vitamins?"
June 8, 2015 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Years ago my college roommate took a statistics course. In the textbook was a small, confounding cartoon that appeared to make no sense but was hilarious in its absurdity. I would like to know about that cartoon.

As I remember it, it was a maze (like what stereotypical lab mice run through, with walls) with two kangaroos standing in it. The kangaroos may have been wearing boxing gloves but that might just be my imagination talking. One kangaroo says to the other kangaroo "did you bring the vitamins?" It didn't appear to have any relation to the surrounding text (though I only ever looked at that one page).

I don't know what textbook it was, but I can tell you that it was the course book used for STAT 20000 Introductory Statistics in Fall 2004 taught by Wu Wei Biao at the University of Chicago.

If anyone has any clue whatsoever what this cartoon was on about, what it could possibly mean, or why it was in an intro stats book, I would love to know. We laughed and forgot about it at the time, but it's been one of those little curiosities that I've wondered about for years.

-"Did you bring the vitamins?"
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe the kangaroos were going to jump over the walls of the maze instead of navigating it, and they need vitamins to keep up their stamina?
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh my lord I remember this. It was an injoke with my friends group during high school or college. I think "hilarious in its absurdity" is spot on and whatever actual joke is supposed to have been made will never be as funny as how little sense it makes. But I'll poll my friends to see if they have any ideas.
posted by chaiminda at 9:32 AM on June 8, 2015

Freedman, Pisani, and Purves, Statistics.

You can look inside on Amazon for "kangaroo." It relates to an exercise (#6 on page 258): "It is claimed that a vitamin supplement helps kangaroos learn to run a special maze with high walls. [...]"
posted by cogitron at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Page four of this. It looks like the cartoon is a play on a problem illustrating the binomial formula.
posted by Everydayville at 9:35 AM on June 8, 2015

It looks like it's a common stats exercise [PDF]:
A vitamin supplement is being investigated to learn if it helps kangaroos learn to run a special maze with high walls. Sixteen kangaroos are divided into eight pairs. Within each pair, one kangaroo is selected at random to receive the vitamin supplement; the other is given a placebo supplement. The kangaroos are then timed as they learn to run the maze. In six of the eight pairs, the treated kangaroo learns to run the maze faster than the placebo kangaroo. If, in fact, the vitamin supplement is of no benefit, what is the probability of six or more of the treated kangaroos learn to
run the maze faster than their placebo partners?
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:36 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Since this apparently is A Thing, now I'm annoyed that googles for "kangaroo vitamin statistics" have never borne fruit.
posted by phunniemee at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

The top result for "kangaroo vitamin statistics" is this very thread!
posted by kindall at 11:24 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

It looks like it's a common stats exercise [PDF]:

Dirty little secret (that's not really a secret): professors usually have an "official textbook" for a course, but sometimes they will adopt and/or modify problems for a course from other textbooks on the same subject. Presumably that's where that U. Mass. professor got the problem from.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:59 PM on June 8, 2015

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