Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I should've just stayed in bed...
NBC News online has a feature story on its website today about the odds of winning the current record-setting Powerball jackpot. Reading the story kind of makes me want to go back to bed and stay there. Forever.
Not because it sets the odds of any single ticket winning the $500 million (or whatever it's risen to by now) jackpot at 175,223,510 to 1. My odds of winning are much longer, since I don't play the lottery at all. But, even if you do play, there are some things that are much more likely to happen to you than winning.
Some of them aren't very cheerful-making.
For example, the article says that your chances of getting hit and killed crossing the street are 1 in 701, citing the National Safety Council. I always get nervous crossing the street. That probably has something to do with all those warnings to "stop, look, and listen" when I was young. This statistic isn't going to help me get over that anxiety.
And, after reading NBC's article, I'm really glad that I don't fly. The article gives the odds of dying in an air or space transport accident are at 1 in 7,178. I'm also really glad that I no longer live directly under a take-off or landing path for the local airport. Just because I'm on the ground doesn't make me feel safe. Those things can fall out of the sky, you know. When I did live under a take-off path, there were three or four times when a plane flying over sounded so bad that I just closed my eyes and held my breath until they were safely past.
The odds are longer than you'll get struck by lightning, at 1 in 134,906, but it's still a lot more likely that you will get your lightning bolt than that the lottery ticket you bought this morning on the way to work will be a big winner.
What about getting eaten by a shark? The odds of a shark attacking you are 1 in 11.5 million, although I'd guess they're probably greater for you if you live near the beach and go swimming or surfing on a regular basis than if live somewhere landlocked like, say, Kansas. Still, much nearer odds than winning Powerball.
Not all the odds reported in the article are related to bad things that could happen to you, although I suppose "bad" is a relative concept.
For example, the odds of winning the Presidency of the United States is about 1 in 10 million presuming, I assume, that you are a US citizen and old enough to run for the office. I guess there are people who actually want to be president. I'm not one of them.
You've got better odds of becoming a movie star, at 1 in 1,505,000, than of becoming President of the United States. The article doesn't really define "star", though, so it isn't really clear whether these are the odds on reaching the Elizabeth Taylor level of stardom, or merely managing to become well-known enough to be offered leading parts in films. Again, I guess there are people who would like this to happen to them, but I'm really not one of them.
Although, I do wonder what the odds are of me becoming a bestselling writer. Now, that's something I could get enthusiastic about.
The oddest statistic in the article, and maybe my favorite, are the odds of being born with extra fingers or toes. This probably interest me so much because I remember being in elementary school and discovering that there was a boy in school who had six fingers on each hand. It was awful for him, as he was teased and bullied mercilessly. So, not such a positive thing. But, after reading this article I think that the kids shouldn't have been so quick to judge him. The odds of this happening to you - not now, of course, because you're already born, but to the children you might contribute your DNA to - are given as 1 in 500.
That means that you had more of a chance of being born with extra digits than you do of getting run over by a car crossing the street. And really, very little chance of winning that $500 million jackpot.
So, you know, don't get disappointed if your numbers don't come up in the lottery. You'll be in very good...not to mention abundant...company.