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Lotto Is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens

The Powerball lottery jackpot, which now stands at $20 million, is tough to win — and sometimes, nobody wins it.
It’s incredibly hard to match all six numbers drawn for the game. To get an idea of just how long the odds are, software engineer Andrew Arrow built a clever little program that randomly generates six lottery numbers (including, naturally, a powerball), and then spits out an infinite set of random guesses, counting how many matches the computer finds.
In the time it took us to write this post, the applet made 5,467 guesses and never matched more than two winning numbers on the same ticket.
Of course, the trick of playing the lottery is that the belief you might win the jackpot can be neurobiologically as satisfying as actually winning. In which case the lottery isn’t a tax on people who are bad at math; it’s cheap entertainment.
(HT: Jennifer Godwin)