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Eureka: Probability the sun will rise tomorrow
by Jay Gutman
2017-01-09 11:12:19
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Statistics are always a little complicated. A one in a million chance means that for each bet you place, there’s 999,999 chances you will lose that single bet. That single bet. This means that if you play a million times, you will have 999,999 times 999,999 chances of losing and ending up owing your bank millions of dollars.

dooms01_400So you’re in a café somewhere and having a drink with friends. Like the song goes, your life’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s DOA. Friends suggest that if you play the slots machines a few million times, you’ll end up winning the jackpot, because there’s a one in a million chance, or one in three million chances you’ll hit the jackpot. So you wager a couple of million of dollars, there’s a credit card for that, and you end up winning 6 or 7 million dollars. That’s a two million dollar investment for a six million dollar reward. The problem is, if you play a million times, there’s 999,999 times 999,999 chances that you WON’T hit the jackpot. So the chances of you losing if you play the slots machines a million times, is almost as likely as the probability that the sun won’t rise tomorrow.

If I told you there a one in a million chances that the sun won’t rise tomorrow, would you place bets for the rest of your life that the sun won’t rise the next day? Earth is said to be about 5 billion years old, so there’s at least a 1 in 5 billion chances that the sun won’t rise tomorrow. At least statistically that is.

Statistics can be useful but probably should stay out of gambling. When gambling, people tend to reason in terms of “I’m feeling lucky” more than in terms of there’s a good chance I’ll lose. You can “feel lucky” when your boss gives you a gift, your friends are being kind to you, you’re single and a man or a woman is making you feel special, or you didn’t feel too much pain when you woke up. Those are the signs gamblers see when they’re “feeling lucky.”

Other gamblers may feel like they have more chances of making money gambling that working a legitimate job. Unemployment, poor working conditions, slow paychecks means gamblers will think they have more chances of making a living out of gambling than in a legitimate job.

Finally, there are those who win at a one-in-a-million chance game and try their luck, thinking that it’s one-in-a-million for others but that it’s more like one-in-fifty for them. Or that chances of winning depend on who you are.

So there’s the age old question of “would you bet against the sun rising tomorrow?” and the answer would be that there are as many chances that the sun won’t rise tomorrow as there are of you winning the jackpot at the slots machines. It could happen, but very likely your bank will call to cancel your credit card and will send the police to your house and negotiate a settlement, possibly you will work for that bank as a slave the rest of your life and will be paid in food stamps, add the stress of the settlement to that.


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