They can predict the weather, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. They can split atoms even. But how come they can’t win the lottery with their statistics and equations?

October 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

because you can’t predict pure chance

• #### shewolf

October 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

No one can predict the lottery numbers – just the *likelihood* of getting certain numbers. Most scientists don’t buy lottery tickets as they will have figured out early on that the likelihood of winning the lottery is pretty darn low and they’re better off spending their money elsewhere.

For example, you can see some stats here:
http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/Risk/lottery.html
or for some actual calculations, here:
http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-Lotto-Odds

The thing about predictions is that they are just statements of what is likely to happen given the data. They do not say that it will actually happen as most systems that we deal with are not deterministic – there is a lot of chaos involved in weather systems for example which means that sometimes you can get very unpredictable results. Butterfly beating its wings and all that. Also, the data can be incomplete or the models incorrect/incomplete as well. Earthquake and volcanic eruption predictions probably suffer from a lot from all these problems as they seem to be quite vague most of the time.

Here’s one prediction though: your chances of winning the lottery tomorrow are so low that you may as well burn the money for all the good it will do you! Better to save the money or spend it on something that will give you real joy, not false hope.

• #### oikos

October 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

For the same reason you don’t see a headline saying “Doorman wins lottery” or “Shoe salesman wins lottery”. The one I’d really like to see is “Psychic wins lottery”. That is about the only time that the occupation of a lottery winner would be news.

• #### andymanec

October 23, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Weather, earthquakes, and volcanoes all have warning signs that can tell you what they might do in the future. The lottery is (ostensibly) completely random. Statistics will only tell you your chances of winning, they won’t actually help you win.

If anything, scientists probably play the lottery less than the average person. They can see (and understand) that the incredibly tiny chance of winning doesn’t justify the cost of a weekly ticket.