Is 17 the "most random" number?
I love freakonomic-type stuff that takes conventional wisdom and subjects it to some kind of emprical test. Recently I came across a study into randomness. Totally cosmic man.
The poll was inspired by this post on Pharyngula, which in turn was inspired by this article on Cosmic Variance. The idea is that 17 will always be the most common answer when people are asked to choose a number between 1 and 20. But neither Cosmic Variance nor Pharyngula offered a reasonable means of testing this proposition. That's where our poll came in. This morning, I took a look at our data, and with 347 responses, I can confirm that 17 is significantly more popular than any number. Take a look at the chart:
As you can see, the number 17 was picked much more often -- almost 18 percent of the time, compared to the 5 percent you might expect from this sample.