Perfect Day?

141029Hey, Green Tech Chicago readers … this is going to be a bit of a divergence as I’m taking up the “Blogapalooza” challenge this evening which asks all Chicago Now bloggers “Write what your perfect day would be like, either in reality or fantasy” … and, frankly, I’m not sure how close I’m going to be able to hold to the ideal of “Green/Tech/Chicago (pick any 2)”, so be warned!

On one hand, this is an EASY topic for me, because I spend a lot of mental down-time framing the particulars of this, but it’s also going to be difficult, because I’m going to be trying to not float into the “TMI” zone. I’ve got my own personal blog for angsty navel-gazings, and make a significant effort to not have those text blocks float out of that realm.

The perfect day would be one where I took all my recent un-checked Powerball and MegaMillions tickets over to one of the lottery vendors (I usually just let the tickets stack up until the prize ceases to “roll over”, so this is not a regular event) to put those barcodes in the scanner, and have one of them be the big prize winner.

Hey, I’m not proud … but THAT is what my “perfect day” would entail.

Now, I play one quick pick for both of the big multi-state games twice a week. That’s $3 a pop, $6 a week, for a total “gambling habit” of $612 per year (and I know some folks who regularly throw more than that at a hand of poker). That’s less than one trip to Subway per week, so even in my painfully cash-strapped {TMI warning} situation, I figure that I can afford it. Even in my darkest days (and I have some doozies), having a ticket for one of the big prizes gives me a tiny sliver of hope to cling to … so the way I see it, that $6 a week is “buying hope” … one small glimmer of light in an economic reality that generally looks and feels (and probably smells) like Mordor.

Before you start up with the old saws like “the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math”, I KNOW. Obviously each individual lottery ticket has an infinitesimal chance of winning the big prize (the Mega is at 1 in 258,890,850 and the PowerBall is at 1 in 175,223,510) … which is a REAL good argument for not buying a second ticket.

Not to nay-say the wonderful Fran Lebowitz, who has noted:

“I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.”

However, if you look at a meta- level of the probabilities involved, and agree to the premise that the lottery is being fairly run, and the randomization of the ping-pong ball machine is analogous to the randomization of the program that spits out the numbers for the “quick pick”, then one can take a step back and say, with reasonable confidence, that the odds for whatever number happens to be generated by the ping-pong balls, prior to those balls being put in motion, is IDENTICAL to the odds for a number having been generated by the “quick pick”. Yes, the specific value for that level of odds is in the hundreds of millions to one … BUT, one number sequence is going to come out of the machine every draw … so those odds are being “beat” all the time.

If we shift our thought to quantum physics, there is what is called a “probability envelope” in which the probability amplitudes of the wave functions are “contained” … when an experiment is observed with a particular result, the other possible results’ envelopes “collapse”. In this case, prior to the ping-pong balls being set in motion, the quick-pick ticket I’m holding has a probability envelope with both factors, specific odds in the hundreds of millions, AND the 1:1 state with the odds of the eventual number.

So, by buying a ticket for every draw, I have a “non-zero” probability to win a large sum of money, four times a week.

Buying a quick-pick ticket keeps that probability envelope OPEN right up to the point where the ping pong balls start flying (at which point physical forces start altering the randomization). Of course, most times (not that I watch the draws – that would be way too stressful), the “probability envelope” of my quick-pick ticket will “collapse” upon the first ball selected. Although I have found that, over time, I end up winning right about the level they claim is “average” (a buck here, a couple of bucks there).

Again, the idea is “buying hope”, and keeping these sorts of mathematical assumptions in the back of mind always lets me think “well, it could be this week” … and what a PERFECT DAY it would be to stick one of those slips in the scanner and have it tell me I was the big winner!

Of course, the REAL fun would be figuring out how to adapt my lifestyle to something like the $284,000,000.00 that’s waiting in Friday’s pick!


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