The $540 million Mega Millions jackpot created a national lottery frenzy, despite the staggering odds of a one-in-175-million chance of winning.
“You are about 100 times more likely to die of a flesh-eating bacteria than you are to win the lottery,” Emory mathematician Aaron Abrams told NPR host Robert Siegel.
Abrams, and Emory mathematician Skip Garibaldi, wrote an article in American Mathematical Monthly called “Finding Good Bets in the Lottery and Why You Shouldn’t Take Them.”
Picking your birthday numbers, picking numbers that have won before or buying your ticket in a small town does not help, the mathematicians say.
“You can’t change the odds of winning a jackpot by the way you pick numbers.” Garibaldi said on ABC’s 20/20 news program. “As a mathematician, I think that’s beautiful.”
Math trumps luck when it comes to the lottery, but Garibaldi admits that he bought five Mega Millions tickets himself.
A waste of money? “Yes, but so is buying a candy bar,” he says. “In fact, buying the candy bar is worse because you’re eating the candy bar, which is bad for you. I’m just losing the money with the lottery tickets.”
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