V ZDA se množijo incidenti, kjer arabsko govoreče potnike na letalu njihovi sopotniki osumijo nenavadnega obnašanja, nakar jih snamejo z letal (npr. tukaj in tukaj). Zadnji tovrstni incident pa je še posebno neverjeten. Let iz Philadelphije v Syracuse je imel dvourno zamudo, ker je sopotnica zatožila stevardesi možakarja zraven sebe – češ da piše v svojo beležko sumljive arabske simbole.
That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. 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.
Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania and stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
They might even have discovered that last year he was awarded the Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40. That’s right: He’s Italian, not Middle Eastern, or whatever heritage usually gets racially profiled on flights these days.