Lehrer on Srivastava’s Decoding of the Scratch Lottery Algorithm

Can’t throw a rock without hitting a recently added jbc mancrush. Case in point: Jonah Lehrer, and this article of his in Wired: Cracking the scratch lottery code.

As a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, Srivastava was intrigued by the technical problem posed by the lottery ticket. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his day job, which involves consulting for mining and oil companies. A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”

Srivastava realized that the same logic could be applied to the lottery. The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples.

3 Responses to “Lehrer on Srivastava’s Decoding of the Scratch Lottery Algorithm”

  1. NorthernLite Says:

    This was very interesting, thanks for sharing. I’ve always wondered how random lotteries could actually be since they’re rules that the computers have to follow to control payouts.

  2. enkidu Says:

    I liked this as well. Just noticed it was on boingboing.net today (reverse osmosis or something). I bookmarked it to show it to my math wiz son.

  3. NorthernLite Says:

    Lies.com: 3 days ahead of Canada’s largest newspaper…



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