Man at His Best

This Ivy League Professor Did Math On A Plane, His Seatmate Thought He Was A Terrorist

Guido Menzio was pulled off a plane because he was a guy doing complex math.

BY JACK HOLMES | May 9, 2016 | Culture

UPenn Economics Department

Don't derive and fly. An Ivy League professor was taken off a flight and questioned on Thursday after a woman reported him for doing math at his seat, The Washington Post reports. Guido Menzio, a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was on a connecting flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse on his way to Ontario when he made the grave mistake of trying to work out a differential equation while sitting next to an overeager citizen. That passenger—described only as a 30-something woman with blonde hair—initially told the flight crew she was sick, but later admitted that she believed Menzio might be a terrorist.

Menzio was trying to iron out some details of a model he was about to present at Queen's University, but the flight was delayed two hours after the flight crew escorted his wary seatmate, then him, off the plane to be questioned. Authorities eventually sent him on his way after deciding he was not a "credible threat," a safe assumption since he was just a guy doing math who happened to have an olive complexion. 

The professor had some thoughts of his own, which he shared with the Post. He called the procedure a "broken system that does not collect information efficiently," and lamented "a security protocol that is too rigid—in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks—and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless."

He also had a theory about root causes: "What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognise in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump's voting base.”

From: Esquire US.