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Lottery And Probability


cinepro

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With last week's "lottery fever" in the news, my kids started dreaming about quick riches if only they could play and win. So that spurred me to offer some examples of what it would take, statistically speaking, to win.

A lot of the news reports were saying things like "you're 14 times more likely to get hit by lightning", but I don't think that really conveys the likelihood. Here are some examples I came up with (assuming a lottery of picking 5 numbers correctly out of 56, and one specific number out of 43.)

I'm not really a mathematician, so let me know if you any of these examples aren't good, or if you have any better "real world" ones.

- Shuffle a deck of cards (including four distinct jokers), and accurately guess the first five cards to be dealt (in any order). Shuffle again, reduce the deck to 43 cards, and accurately guess the first card dealt.

- Flip a coin 27 times and get "heads" every single time*

- Flip a coin 27 times and get "tails" every single time*

- Make a list of 27 coin flips, guessing heads or tails for each one. Flip a coin 27 times and match your list in order.*

- Go to a well planted football field. Identify a single blade of grass. Have someone else (who obviously doesn't know which one you selected) identify a blade of grass. If you both picked the same one, success! But you have to do it successfully twice.

- Choose a number between 1-6. Roll a single six-sided die 10 times, getting the same number for every roll. Once successful, you must then flip a coin and get heads.

- Or, pick 10 numbers between 1-6. Roll a single six-sided die 10 times, and match your numbers in order. Once successful, you must then flip a coin and get heads.

After reviewing these examples, I asked my kids if they would be willing to wager even a penny against my offer of a $5 payout. They weren't interested in even going through the effort of finding a penny.

And as a final experiment, I considered that if I did actually play the lottery, I wouldn't buy more than 10 tickets. So I made a list of the numbers I would play. Then, I added an additional 90 "tickets", to simulate 100 tickets. Saturday morning, I confirmed that even if I had played, I wouldn't have won. So now I never have to wonder, and I saved the $10. Of course, I don't know how I would have felt if my numbers had come up, but I was willing to take that chance....

*Coin flip odds are better than lotto odds. (134m:1 compared to 176m:1)

Edited by cinepro
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As a funny side note, I heard that a fair number of people from Utah went up to Franklin (a border town in Idaho), and that the population of the town doubled. i guess locals called these Utahns "Lottery Day Saints". i got a kick out of it.

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If there is a God, and time is one eternal round to Him, what do these statistics mean?

Wouldn't your chances of winning the lottery today be 100 per cent if that's what God willed before you were born?

(And somebody did win, didn't they?)

Edited by inquiringmind
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I could be guaranteed to win the lottery here where we pick 6 numbers out of 49. I must buy about 14 million different tickets.Assuming that was possible on the randomly generated number maker,and that I could get 14 numbers generated every second,I would only need to wait 24/7 for about 11 days to get the winning ticket.....oh wait....it is now on a new draw, oh shucks.

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I got a losing mega-millions lottery ticket the other day, but someone within a hundred miles of me got a winning ticket.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the odds of her get that winning ticket as bad as mine?

So, once again:

If there is a God, and time is one eternal round to Him, what do these statistical odds mean?

Aren't your chances of winning the lottery today 100 per cent if that's what God willed before you were born?

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If she bought 2 tickets and you only bought one,then her odds were twice as good as yours,still very slim.

Now if you want some really big odds,what are the odds that a nucleotide will be formed by random chance?

Edited by blackstrap
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When I was a kid I was struck by lightening. Does this mean that I will now win the lottery? :D

That kind of reminds me of a classic Archie Bunker line from the 1970's, where he says that when he flies on an airplane he always brings a bomb with him, because "what are the chances of there being two bombs on a plane?"

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That kind of reminds me of a classic Archie Bunker line from the 1970's, where he says that when he flies on an airplane he always brings a bomb with him, because "what are the chances of there being two bombs on a plane?"

I think it depends on which movies are playing(rimshot) ( that is just for you,cinepro!)

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- Go to a well planted football field. Identify a single blade of grass. Have someone else (who obviously doesn't know which one you selected) identify a blade of grass. If you both picked the same one, success! But you have to do it successfully twice.

*Coin flip odds are better than lotto odds. (134m:1 compared to 176m:1)

My neighbour found that blade of grass, last year winning 25k (nothing to sneeze at). I was then tempted and bought a scratch ticket a few weeks in a row. :mega_shok: Winning would be great but it would be rather interesting telling all my church friends about my new found money. Imagine seeing your pastor or bishop on tv claiming their millions? In Canada if you win its in the paper on tv without escape......awkward. Mind you I doubt our Church's would have a problem accepting the tithe...(or would they?)

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I got a losing mega-millions lottery ticket the other day, but someone within a hundred miles of me got a winning ticket.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the odds of her get that winning ticket as bad as mine?

Yes, but that's a bad way of thinking about it. A small rock is hurtling towards earth. Reentry will burn it down to a pebble. The statistical odds of it striking any one spot or even somewhere within a large area are very low. The pebble will hit somewhere. The statistical odds of the particular combination of genetic code that makes up me being this random combination of my parent's code is almost as astronomical. To bet on either would be the act of a madman. Yet one of them is right.

If there is a God, and time is one eternal round to Him, what do these statistical odds mean?

That he knows exactly how economically stupid it is to buy a lottery ticket.

Aren't your chances of winning the lottery today 100 per cent if that's what God willed before you were born?

Willed it how? Dropping the ticket in your lap as the numbers are read off? Mentally compelling you to get a ticket and turn it in?

Unless you can answer that your question is meaningless.

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