Friday, January 1, 2010

Comparing Lotto 6/49 and car commercials

  • Car commercials traditionally show people driving a car.
  • Lotto 6/49 commercials typically show what people do (or dream to do) after they win the big jackpot.
Err, how can we compare car commercials with Lotto 6/49? Well, for the most part, car commercials show what you can expect to do with the car if you buy it. Car accidents do occur but they are rare (though they can be fatal) so for the most part these commercials could be said to reflect what using the product is like in the common case.
A customer who purchases a ticket for the Lotto 6/49 has approximately 1 chance out of 14 million to win the big prize. In order to better reflect the odds of winning, Lotto 6/49 could air about 14 million TV commercials where people DON'T win the big prize in all of them but one. You might spend your whole life watching these commercials and miss the one showing a big winner.
Probabilities don't necessarily talk to our human and subjective nature. When something so great COULD happen, does it matter if the odds are very small? Here's another way to look at it, with no math involved. The money doesn't come magically out of no where from the bank. The winner receives the money collected from all the people who purchased a ticket and did lose.
Exercise 2 of Activity 1 shows how to simulate - but not predict - a draw of Lotto 6/49 so you can play for fun!
Drive and play (or dream) carefully, please...