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8:11am on Wednesday, 18th May, 2005:

Striking it Lucky


Imagine a stack of pennies eight miles high (or, if you don't like height, eight miles long). Imagine that one of those pennies isn't really a penny but a penny-sized gold coin from ancient times so rare that it was worth £2,000,000. Could you find that gold coin? If so, how long would it take you to do so?

Let's make it harder. Could you find that one gold coin, from a stack of pennies eight miles high, if you could only pick out one coin, which you had to choose at random? What if, in order to have such a guess, you had to pay me £1? Would you do it? Would you pay £1 to pick a random coin from a stack of pennies eight miles high, in the hope that it might be the one coin among all of them that's worth £2,000,000?

A penny is about 1mm thick. A stack of pennies eight miles high would contain 12,874,752 pennies. You have a 1 in 12,874,752 chance of picking the right penny at random. Small odds, yes, but nevertheless still more favourable than the 1 in 13,983,816 chance you have of winning the National Lottery.

No, I haven't ever bought a lottery ticket...

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).