So Kath wrote about playing the lotto, and why she does it. I started to write a reply which turned out to be insanely long, so long that it deserves republishing here.
I’ve never understood why people seem to get a thrill from buying a lotto ticket and imagining what they will do if they win. See, the thing is, imagination is free. You don’t actually need to buy the ticket to indulge in the “what would I do if I won lotto” game.
You could imagine that you found a ticket. You could imagine that some mysterious distant relative you’ve never heard of has carked it and you’ve inherited their estate. You could imagine charlie and the chocolate factory is real, and you’ve just laid your hands on the golden ticket.
None of this costs you anything.
And obviously you know how improbable it is to win, but you convince yourself otherwise. So quoting numbers isn’t going to win you over, but maybe visualizing it will. So here goes…
Google tells me the odds of winning oz lotto are 8,145,060 to 1. Let’s imagine these odds on a roulette table.
Let’s assume our roulette ball is 1cm wide. So it needs to fall into a slot that is at least 1cm wide. And there needs to be 8,145,060 slots. So that makes a roulette wheel with a circumference of at least 81 km. The good ol’ 2 pi R formula tells us that would make the wheel about 26km across.
This is way bigger than the biggest circular thing I can think of, the Arecibo radio observatory. Take a look at this picture of it.
Imagine playing roulette on that baby, hoping your ball will fall into the 1cm wide slot on the edge with your number on it.
That radio telescope is only 305 metres wide. The imaginary “lotto” roulette wheel is 26km wide; 86 times bigger! It might take you an hour of driving around it just to see who won, if you were doing 80km/hr! Assuming you can even spot a 1cm wide roulette ball at that speed!
Wow it was fun working that out and imagining it. And it cost me nothing! In conclusion, I am a total nerd and you should not buy lotto tickets.