Once In A Lifetime

I want to try to explain part of why the world seems so crazy these days.

Evelyn Marie Adams won $3.9 million in the New Jersey lottery in 1986. Four months later she won again, collecting another $1.4 million.

'‘I’m going to quit playing,’’ she told the New York Times. ‘‘I’m going to give everyone else a chance.’’

It was a big story at the time, because number-crunchers put the odds of her double win at a staggering 1 in 17 trillion.

Three years later two mathematicians, Persi Diaconis and Frederick Mosteller, threw cold water on the excitement.

If one person plays the lottery, the odds of picking the winning numbers twice are indeed 1 in 17 trillion.

But if one hundred million people play the lottery week after week – which is the case in America – the odds that someone will win twice are actually quite good. Diaconis and Mosteller figured it was 1 in 30.

That number didn’t make many headlines.

'‘With a large enough sample, any outrageous thing is apt to happen,” Mosteller said.

That’s part of why the world seems so crazy, and why once-in-a-lifetime events seem to happen regularly.

There are about eight billion people on this planet. So if an event has a 1-in-a-million chance of occurring every day, it should happen to 8,000 people a day, or 2.9 million times a year, and maybe a quarter of a billion times during your lifetime. Even a 1-in-a-billion event will become the fate (Read more...)