Friday, February 24, 2006

Lottery speaks to our inner random

The site has a pre-, or post-determined set of time codes. If you run a search and are the closest to the magic time, you win a prize. Randomness is always a logical vacation, as you can analyze outcomes in statistical fashion, at the conclusion of a trial, or you can run a simulation of a number of events and see which is the most likely to happen. This will show you tendencies, but never the specifics of any one run over another. This is why random numbers are so important.

There is a series of 5 traffic lights that I drive through daily. They are spaced so that it is impossible to hit every one green, and most times you will be stopped several times. Occasionally, there is a backup, as the cyclical rotation of each has come into alignment to stop more cars earlier in the sequence. For each one of these days, though, there are 3-4 easy days. Does it depend on the time I am traveling through? Probably not much, as traffic between 5:30 and 7 is pretty constant on those roads. The key variable, I have noticed, is the second light, which is timed to operate with sufficient traffic backed up on the side street. Out of all these pseudo-random outcomes, there is a seed - how many cars are traveling on side street x. It must drive the planners crazy.

I will be buying a lottery ticket tonight. The Mega Millions jackpot is up to $205 million, a reward that starts to justify the one dollar risk. What is my chance of winning? 1 in 175,711,536
So what's the big deal? It's just like blingo, the closest time to that random time where the correct seed in the terminal at Quality Kwik Gas will produce the correct numbers is doubtlessly going to happen once or twice before the drawing. To me, it beats putting the chore in my own hands and accepting the blame of defeat.

As someone on Fark put it:

2006-02-20 11:32:47 PM Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo

Actually, playing the lottery in a very controlled way is an intelligent thing to do. The trick is, you have to follow 2 basic rules:

Only ever buy ONE ticket for any given lottery. You increase your chances from zero to some insignificant chance. That is effectively an infinite increase in your odds of winning. Combine that with the pleasure of imagining what you'd do if you won and it's worth the dollar.

Only ever play lotteries where the payout is truly life altering. $5000 max scratch tickets are a tax on people who can't do math. $50,000,000+ lottery payouts for a $1 entry fee are worth taking a risk on. Given that no one can feasibly play more than 5-6 $50 million+ lotteries a week, the $5-6 expenditure (tops) doesn't seem unreasonable.

If you play more than one ticket or play small time payouts, you probably don't understand statistics very well.
I agree. My mental health has to be taken care of too.