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Lotteries shocka!!: It ISN’T chance that someone gets multiverse-level lucky.

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all six sides/Diacritica

You knew that, of course. Design inference. You just didn’t know how they were doing it. Mostly, they were “spotting patterns and exploiting loopholes.”

In “Lottery wins come easy, if you can spot the loopholes” (New Scientist, 19 August 2011), Ferris Jabr brings us up to date on how sharp people make their own luck.

One guy we covered in February was honest: Statistician Mohan Srivastava of Toronto, Canada, picked winning Ontario Lottery scratch cards by assuming that they were assigned by a software tool called a pseudo-random number generator. Instead of ripping off, he picked 19 of 20 proposed winners correctly and took the unscratched cards to the lottery commission. Which pretty much ended that game. And we’ve all heard about the Texas “lucky star” lotto queen too.
Jabr reports that Srivastava told Ontario lotto that some techniques do produce truly random sequences – techniques using thermal noise, for example. But

Trouble is, Srivastava says, lotteries avoid these because they want to control how many people win to ensure a profit. “Their mandate is to create an alternative source of revenue for the government.” And that means the statistically savvy can mop up the prizes. In the interests of transparency, he suggests lotteries state on tickets that the game is susceptible to plundering. More. [It gets better.]

They don’t, because many ticket holders are happy to believe that their “lucky number” systems work, while the smart cookies clean up.

So that Smart French GuyTM is still right: A lottery is a tax on imbeciles.

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One Reply to “Lotteries shocka!!: It ISN’T chance that someone gets multiverse-level lucky.

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    “Statistician Mohan Srivastava of Toronto, Canada, picked winning Ontario Lottery scratch cards by assuming that they were assigned by a software tool called a pseudo-random number generator.”

    This smells fishy. I looked up the original article, and found no mention of pseudo-random number generators. Rather, it implied that he saw a correlation between the serial number and the info under the hidden squares — a simple algorithm.

    Pseudo-random number generators are not nearly as easy to “crack” as all that. They are surprisingly random (though technically not quite random). And IDers look like idiots when they start hooting about non-randomness of computer simulators being a factor in pseudo-random generators being responsible for the simulator’s results.

    The only cool non-random thing about pseudo-random generators are that if you seed it with a given number, it’ll produce the exact same sequence that it did the last time that number was used as a seed. This is a really valuable feature in encryption, but it doesn’t weaken the power of the generators very much at all.

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