Lottery Simulator; Science Reporting; More

Bit busy today, folks. Here’s some interesting links. Typo warning level 5.

Incredibly Depressing Mega Millions Lottery Simulator!

That’s the creator’s name for it: I find it exhilarating and nicely done. His simulator lets you pick numbers for the Mega Millions lottery, as per usual, and then run a simulation of lottery draws. You can do just one or up to 1040 times, which works out to twice a week for 10 years.

Surely you should win the lottery after 10 years of hard work! I chose the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and Mega Ball 6. I lost the first three simulations, but on the fifth—oh boy!—I got the Mega, which won me two smackers. Of course, I had already paid out (in simulated money) $5 bucks at this point, so I’m still $3 behind.

The most I even “won” was $7 for matching three correct numbers; over ten “years” I did this five times, which netted me thirty-five smackeroos. Be sure when you play to scroll down to the bottom, where you can find your summary. Mine: “You played 1040 games of Mega Millions. It cost $1040. You won $82.”

I love it! What a great way to show the futility of lotteries.

But wait. Won’t somebody, just like in real life, eventually win? Sure. In fact (also at the bottom), the site gives this update, “In the 3,240,246 times this simulation has run, players have won $23,872,586
And by won I mean they have won back $23,872,586 of the $3,240,246 they spent (736%). [commas inserted in numbers]” Thus, overall, more money was won than spent.

Although the site doesn’t say so, this positive imbalance surely is just for one, possibly two, of three million plays. I suggest the author include in his update the number of people who came out ahead. That would make the results even more depressing.

At the very bottom of the page, are links to a large number of stories on the site, many of which are amusing.

Science Reporting

Martin Robbins entitled his article, “This is a news website article about a scientific paper.” It begins:

In this paragraph I will state the main claim that the research makes, making appropriate use of “scare quotes” to ensure that it’s clear that I have no opinion about this research whatsoever.

In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research “challenges”.

It goes on, paragraph by paragraph, hitting every trope seen in every science report ever seen. His article—parody? precise summary? template?—is so beautifully done, we suspect that it is genuine, in the sense that Journalism schools teach science “writing” is this format.

For new reports, the only words that have to be changed are at the beginning, where the subject is introduced. After that, the article could be copied word-for-word and I suspect nobody would ever notice. See if you agree:

In this paragraph I will reference or quote some minor celebrity, historical figure, eccentric, or a group of sufferers; because my editors are ideologically committed to the idea that all news stories need a “human interest”, and I’m not convinced that the scientists are interesting enough.

At this point I will include a picture, because our search engine optimisation experts have determined that humans are incapable of reading more than 400 words without one.

Statistical Graph

From the Daily Mail, “Revealed: The maps that show the racial breakdown of America’s biggest cities.” This has been making the rounds, and it’s easy to see why.

For major American cities, Cartographer Eric Fischer plotted a dot for every 25 people, and colored it based on race. The dots add up to clusters, and reveal inner-city boundaries which are no surprise to anybody. Race being the perpetual lunatic subject that it is, you can imagine what people are saying. Typical is this:

Good magazine’s Andrew Price said: ‘What do we, as a society, want to see in maps like this? I think it’s safe to say that the clear separation of races in Detroit is a symptom (or cause) of serious social problems.

‘At the same time,’ he added, ‘it seems unrealistic to expect perfect integration and it’s unclear if we should want that anyway. It’s great that our cities have vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods.’

Serious social problems forsooth! More like (rational and expected) self-selection in choosing where to live.

Mother-In-Law Jokes Banned

In the It Was Bound To Happen Department, the Daily Mail tells us that The London Borough of Barnet has banned certain jokes, and has put out an earnest pamphlet “Cultural Awareness: General Problems,” in which is says:

‘Humour can be incredibly culture-specific, and is very open to misinterpretation or even offense [sic] by other cultures. And don’t forget when you don’t know what people are laughing at, it is very easy to imagine that they are laughing at you.’

Oh, the pain!


  1. Luis Dias

    (having troubles posting)

    At one time I used to share a euro-millions ticket with my work colleagues. I once told them my choice of numbers, “1,2,3,4,5+6,7”. They refused to do it, because no winner ever won with these kinds of numbers. No matter how much I tried to tell them that the odds are equal regardless of the “kind” of choice of numbers you make, I couldn’t persuade them.

    Because you know, numbers that get out of the lottery are supposed to be “random”.

    And these are not the stupid bunch of the population, either.

  2. Great links!

    Love the lottery simulator, in 30 years of play I’ve “won” almost $400, for a mere $3120 outlay. That law-that-ain’t-a-law, the Law of Averages, is catching up with the simulator; it’s only showing a 183% return at last report. I suspect a few thousand more hits will put this bad boy permanently into the red. This is a great timewaster for my stats students!

    The only thing Marty Robbins missed in his science reporting template was the obligatory web link to an institutional press release saying the exact same thing as the article. The amount of cutting and pasting that goes on it sci/tech news is depressing.

    The demographic map of San Antonio would be more informative if it were animated over time. The graduation from hispanic to anglo mimics the pattern of urban development over the past 50 years. I’d expect gentrification–coming in the next Summer of Recovery–to start blurring the hispanic South Side.

    My rule of thumb is “When you don’t know what people are laughing at, it’s probably at YOU.” But it’s better to be amusing than ignored!

  3. Ray

    “I think it’s safe to say that the clear separation of races in Detroit is a symptom (or cause) of serious social problems.”

    Take a look at the crime statistics for the various demographic areas. That might give you a hint about serious social problems.

  4. JH

    <blockquote At this point I will include a picture, because our search engine optimisation experts have determined that humans are incapable of reading more than 400 words without one.
    I knew it!!! There are x-men among us.

    It’s been a long day, can somebody please share a father-in-law joke?

  5. Just for JH:

    “I was out walking the other day when I saw six men beating up my father-in-law. As I stood there and watched, his neighbor, who knew me, said, “Well, aren’t you going to help?” I replied, “No. Six of them is enough”.

    Hmmmmm. Doesn’t seem to work as well.

  6. That Law of Averages has finally caught up:
    ‘In the 44245106 times this simulation has run, players have won $35649986
    ‘And by won I mean they have won back $35649986 of the $44245106 they spent (80%).’

  7. Anthony Watts

    Hi Matt,

    We may have a number spill on aisle 5 at WUWT that could benefit from your statistical brillo pad.

    See the post on PDO+AMO.


  8. Rich

    Richard Lloyd has a lottery checker for the UK National Lottery at The interface is some work but you can check what you would have won had you ever played. 123456 loses over £1,000.

    He also has advice on choosing numbers. You would never choose 123456 because it would mean sharing the jackpot with thousands of other people who know that that outcome is just as likely as any other but who never thought beyond that academic result.

  9. JH

    49er, haha. Thank you. My mother-in-law divorced from my father-in-law would also love it!

  10. Speed

    The odds of winning the lottery grand prize are about the same whether you buy a ticket or not. But if you don’t play, you can’t win.

  11. gcb

    Actually, Speed, the odds of winning the lottery are infinitely better if you buy a ticket, strictly speaking. 🙂

  12. Doug M


    I wouldn’t have taken your ticket either. Way too many idiots take 1,2,3,4,5 to prove a point, and you split the prize with them. Play numbers the high numbers on the ticket, instead.

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