Friday, 20 January 2012

1,2,3.....


By chance, I listened to a fascinating weekly programme about mathematics last week. It was about the statistics of chance and lottery draws.  Apparently, if numbers 1,2,3,4,5, & 6 were to come up - it would be no less a series of random numbers than any other between 1 and 49 (the parameters of our national lottery.)   If I picture the little balls rolling around in the transparent drum, I have to reluctantly admit I can almost understand this, but if it did happen, I would instantly react with shock and 3/4 of my brain would decide that the result had been fixed.  Similarly, we have friends who regularly win when they buy raffle tickets. Hell, they even won a car once!  We have been to functions with them, and even swapped our tickets with theirs: you've guessed it - they still won the bottles of wine or whatever else was on offer.  How does this happen?  Is there such a thing as just being 'lucky'? 

3 comments:

  1. Lucky is one thing. Whatever it took to get you on your way to that gorgeous retirement home...that's what counts.

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    1. That, of course, was just hard graft.

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  2. Random numbers can lead generate unseemly combinations but BEWARE, sometimes random numbers are not so random. One day in 1980 our state lottery hit on 666. Just as likely as 473 or 927 yes? Sure! And when the betting is random, you can almost be assured that it was a random number.

    But what would you think if there was a huge amount of betting on the number 666? What would you think if you were a crime boss and suddenly you are flooded with bets for 666?

    On the day that 666 won, a couple of guys went around the state buying up huge amounts of lottery tickets betting 666 and combinations of 6 and 4. Now bear in mind this is before the Internet and cell phones. Somehow word got out on the streets that 666 was going to hit and the ticket buying of both legal and illegal numbers went viral for 666. At 1 PM the local numbers crime boss (illegal numbers that used the state lottery number) cried foul and stopped writing numbers. This guy saw something was up. If he believed that it was a truly random number he had 999 chances out of 1000 to make a killing, but he smelled a rat. So 6 hours before the lottery number is drawn, the illegal numbers crime boss stopped all betting. Surprise! 666 wins. What's the chances? 1 in 1000. The local numbers kingpin curiously started screeching for an investigation, because although he stopped all betting at 1 PM, the bets written prior to 1 PM were still "valid"--however valid a number can be in an illegal numbers game. So here you got the crime boss screaming bloody murder to the authorities that the game was fixed. So an investigation is started. The guys that bought up all the tickets? Business partners to the TV personality, Nick Perry, that chose the numbers on the televised drawing every night at 7 PM. Curiously non-random folks! Well the investigation revealed that all the ping pong balls in the number machine has been slightly weighted down with an injection of latex paint except for 4 and 6. The weighted balls were disposed and life went on. The day was saved by the honest concerns of the crime boss who insisted that the state investigate this unusual random number!!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_Pennsylvania_Lottery_scandal

    A personal note, one of the brothers buying the tickets was a customer at the gas station I worked at in the late 60s. He and my father were drinking buddies. By the time of the scandal, my father was laid up at home from a debilitating stroke. Neither of us had ever played a number.

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