You are Here: Home >< Maths

# Probability generating functions Watch

1. This isn't really the original Achilles & tortoise problem but it uses the characters:

Suppose that the race began with Achilles waiting on the starting line while the tortoise was given a start of t time units, where t is a positive integer. Suppose also that, during each time unit, the tortoise either moves 1 metre with probability p or stays where it is with probability 1-p. Write down the distribution of the distance travelled by the tortoise before it fails to move and find the probability generation function.

I could do this part because it's the geometric distribution, and the pgf is (1-p)/(1-sp).

Once he has started, Achilles runs at a constant rate of 1m per time unit. Find the pgf for the distance from the start at which Achilles catches the tortoise and show that its expectation is tp/(1-p).

I'm really stuck on this part.. Suppose the tortoise travels D metres before Achilles starts. Achilles will need to travel each time the tortoise travels, plus all the times the tortoise fails to travel, and there need to be D of these, so we need to find the amount of time it takes the tortoise to fail D times? It looks like a sum of I.I.D. random variables but I'm not sure how to go about it. Please help?
2. Basically, every time the tortoise fails to move, Achilles catches up one unit. And you know he needs to catch up t units. So it is exactly a sum of IID random variables (of the form you were asked about in the first part of the question).

What exactly, are you stuck on?
3. (Original post by DFranklin)
Basically, every time the tortoise fails to move, Achilles catches up one unit. And you know he needs to catch up t units. So it is exactly a sum of IID random variables (of the form you were asked about in the first part of the question).

What exactly, are you stuck on?
Why does he need to catch up t units? The tortoise has not necessarily moved t units in the headstart, so the number of units he needs to catch up on looks like a random variable as well?
4. I haven't done the calcs, so this is possibly wrong, but think in terms of catching up *time* units, rather than distance.

[That is, each time the tortoise fails to move, he's "wasting" a unit of time, relative to Achilles].
5. (Original post by DFranklin)
I haven't done the calcs, so this is possibly wrong, but think in terms of catching up *time* units, rather than distance.

[That is, each time the tortoise fails to move, he's "wasting" a unit of time, relative to Achilles].
But each time unit corresponds to Achilles catching up 1 distance unit. He has a headstart of D~Bi(t, p) units, of Achilles needs to catch up on D time (or, equivalently, distance) units? I don't think he needs to catch up t units because the tortoise is not necessarily that far ahead. Maybe there's something I'm missing?

Updated: March 27, 2012
TSR Support Team

We have a brilliant team of more than 60 Support Team members looking after discussions on The Student Room, helping to make it a fun, safe and useful place to hang out.

This forum is supported by:
Today on TSR

### HELP!

Mum wants to come to Freshers

Poll
Useful resources

### Maths Forum posting guidelines

Not sure where to post? Read the updated guidelines here

### How to use LaTex

Writing equations the easy way

### Study habits of A* students

Top tips from students who have already aced their exams