Problem #206


Two three-letter strings, $aaa^{}_{}$ and $bbb^{}_{}$, are transmitted electronically. Each string is sent letter by letter. Due to faulty equipment, each of the six letters has a 1/3 chance of being received incorrectly, as an $a^{}_{}$ when it should have been a $b^{}_{}$, or as a $b^{}_{}$ when it should be an $a^{}_{}$. However, whether a given letter is received correctly or incorrectly is independent of the reception of any other letter. Let $S_a^{}$ be the three-letter string received when $aaa^{}_{}$ is transmitted and let $S_b^{}$ be the three-letter string received when $bbb^{}_{}$ is transmitted. Let $p$ be the probability that $S_a^{}$ comes before $S_b^{}$ in alphabetical order. When $p$ is written as a fraction in lowest terms, what is its numerator?

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Instructions for entering answers:

  • Reduce fractions to lowest terms and enter in the form 7/9.
  • Numbers involving pi should be written as 7pi or 7pi/3 as appropriate.
  • Square roots should be written as sqrt(3), 5sqrt(5), sqrt(3)/2, or 7sqrt(2)/3 as appropriate.
  • Exponents should be entered in the form 10^10.
  • If the problem is multiple choice, enter the appropriate (capital) letter.
  • Enter points with parentheses, like so: (4,5)
  • Complex numbers should be entered in rectangular form unless otherwise specified, like so: 3+4i. If there is no real component, enter only the imaginary component (i.e. 2i, NOT 0+2i).

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