Friday, September 05, 2014

It's Possible... But Not Really

Once I missed out on winning a ten million-dollar lottery by a margin of just one number. The next morning I posted a photocopy of my ticket, super-imposed on the winning numbers with the caption underneath:
"This is why I am at work today!"
I work in a very exact profession which involves a minimum of eight daily hours of dealing with precision of numbers, and so I am a bit obsessed with the phenomenon of probability. No mistakes are allowed. I am forever thinking of probabilities, in one way or another. And I like trying to find analogies that will better illustrate the improbability of probabilities. The other day I came up with a new one that [to me, anyway] just accentuates how much "luck" [or whatever] one might need to win a lottery. To win any national lottery, the chances of you winning are well in excess of one in many many millions, sometimes hundreds of millions. But for now, let's focus on what it means to foist your chances on say "one in a million".
One in a million. Let's say you have a one-in-a-million chance of… winning something. 

Or of something specific happening.
Let's say that there is an amateur thief out there waiting for a moment… the one night in which you forget to lock your car. He wants to steal your signed first edition of Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye" that is sitting there on the back seat. [Who wouldn't?] He has no thief-tools to do the job. The only factor involved in his success is that he is walking past your car on that one night of the year that you leave it unlocked. Obviously, if one specific year was chosen for this event to happen, his chances of being rewarded would be one in 365.
But what if his chances were set by the parameters of "one-in-a-million"?
It would mean that this thief had to walk past your unlocked car on that exact day of the year in any given span of 2,740 years!
And yet… I continue to buy lottery tickets. The epitome of wishful thinking!



Stefanie said...

Oh wow you came so close! Does your lottery have lesser prizes for almost getting all the numbers? Mine does here. If you get five of the six you still win a few thousand dollars. Not millions, but hey any little bit, right? I don;t buy tickets often, just when the jackpot is high and it's my birthday or my husband's birthday or some other special day. For $2 I get to spend a day or two until the drawing dreaming of what I'd do with my millions, giving myself free reign to imagine and talk out loud about it. It's worth it now and then :)

Cipriano said...

Yep, it does, Stefanie. For having five of the six numbers I got just over $2,000 -- which was nice. But mmm... ten million would have been so much nicer! I'm like you in that I only spend $3 at a time when I play the Lottery -- it's worth the nice dreams between the time of purchasing and seeing the results.