Against the Odds!

A recent article on lottery provider Lottoland’s website caused us to think about the likelihood – or otherwise – of various events occurring. They took a look at the odds of winning the lottery and compared that to the chances of other rather unlikely events such as being struck by lightning, hitting a hole in one in golf or living to be 100 years old. Some of what they discovered was pretty remarkable, and we decided to explore the statistical probability of some other rare events occurring.

You may have heard the expression ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’ or that something happens ‘once in a blue moon’ to suggest the rarity of a particular event. Well, turns out that scientists have discovered a variety of chicken called a Talpid which comes equipped with a fully formed set of choppers similar to those found in crocodiles. And as for that blue moon? Well it happens once every two and a half years (more or less) which is hardly a once in a generation. With that in mind, maybe some of these improbable events aren’t quite as unusual as we may imagine.

A lot of us worry about things that might happen, but which generally don’t. Like for example it seems that 40% of the people on a plane are worried about it crashing, when the odds of this actually happening are a massive 1.2 million to one. Not only that, but even if those odds still make you nervous you will be glad to hear that over 95% of those involved in a plane crash survive. Sharks tend to make people nervous when it comes to swimming in the sea, but the odds of being killed in a shark attack are a frankly implausible 300 million to one. Snakes aren’t as dangerous as you may imagine either, with only 1 in 3.5 million dying from a snake-bite. And if you happen to live in a country where snakes are rare and non-lethal then the risk is just about zero!

So, what about those examples we mentioned in the introduction? Well, your chances of getting struck by lightning this year are about a million to one, with those odds becoming 10,000 to one over the course of your lifetime. However, naturally this will change dramatically depending on how long you spend tramping around in the countryside during thunderstorms! The chances of a regular schlub making a hole in one come in at a not impossible 12,500 to 1, although as golfers are in the high-risk group for lightning strikes it’s tough to say which is more likely to happen. A pro golfer has a much more likely 2,500 to 1 chance of making that elusive hole in one. As for living to 100, well if you happen to be born right now in a developed nation then your chances are a more than reasonable 3 to 1.

Speaking of being born, what are the odds of that happening in the first place? Well a Dr. Ali Binazir tried to calculate the odds of coming into the existence and came up with some pretty startling results. If you accept his premise, which includes your parents meeting in the first place, hooking up and eventually having the bouncing baby that would become you then those odds work out at a staggering 400 Trillion to 1. If you like, you can check Dr. Binazir’s workings here. Having beaten those kinds of odds to be able to be capable of actually becoming who you are and reading this article, it kind of puts the rest of it into perspective!

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