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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Darwinists are magical thinkers, so they try magical tricks on us! Like changing the subject

As it happens, magicians are actually illusionists.   They manage to draw your attention in one direction as they do something quickly and surreptitiously right under your very nose!   They also use various gadgets and false panels, trapdoors, etc.  Often they have at least one attractive female assistant to take the eyes away from what they are doing and certainly using animals gives more pizzaz to what they do.   We realize that somehow we are being tricked even as our senses tell us something magical happened.   How did that bird fly from an empty hat?  How did he pull an egg from behind my ear?  Did he really make a 800 pound cow disappear?

As a blogger, it is beginning to feel a bit like working with magicians as commenters.  I make posts concerning science, they make comments that draw attention away from science.   I present evidence that the rock layers were formed by the Noahic Flood, that the Biblical genealogies are accurate, that organisms had to have been designed by an Intellect far beyond our own, that Anthropic Global Warming is unscientific, that scientists promoting both Darwinism and AGW use long-falsified "evidence" and unfounded assertions, that real science is about primarily "what" and "how" first rather than "where did it come from?"

In science, how and why are subservient to what.   What is it and what does it do?   Then we investigate how it does it?   These are real-time scientific questions and endeavors.   If you are a Darwinist, you may spend many fruitless hours trying to prove that there is no "who" or "why" component, sadly.   Because understanding both who and why helps explain the what and the how.   A scientist who understands that the original DNA string was optimal and is devolving is a step ahead of one who thinks it is evolving and should evolve.

Sometimes we get into philosophy on this blog and even sometimes politics.  Sadly, in the comments thread there are people who attempt to take the focus away from science.    Why do they do it?   Can it be that the science part of Darwinism is sadly lacking in real evidence and is a hodge-podge of innacuracies, falsehoods, misunderstandings and fairy tales?  So while I blog on science, the commenters are:

  • Asking me for a cartoon website quite rudely.   So I say, go find it yourself, I am busy.
  • Trying to allow a commenter to have private conversations with a young friend of mine that he is unwilling to share with me.  I told this commenter he could write an article for me to post but he has declined.  If we can't see it, then forget it!
  • Assertions made with authority that are easily falsified.  I laughed when one of them claimed bacteria don't have languages just because he thought an ID source had discovered them.  Nope.
  • Asking about lotteries.
  • Presenting long lists of questions that have nothing to do with the post itself
  • Name-calling.  Is this the third grade?  Seriously?
  • Making the same tired old claims like "the fossil record is sequential", etc.  Except rock layers get dated by the fossils and fossils get dated by the strata, it is circular and in the hands of Darwinists, so how do we know any of it is true?  They rode Haeckel for about 100 years knowing it was fake.  We know that Darwinists have a history of presenting false and faulty information so if they are in charge of the system, you know only one point of view will emerge.   Thus, the need for ICR and AIG and CMI and ARN and The Discovery Institute and multitudes more like them.   Science has a way of ferreting out true things and tossing aside false things, even if it takes a lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong time.
But when challenged to go into court and be limited to presenting actual evidence?  They slink away.  Because evidence is something Darwinists just don't have.

Tell you what, business is pressing and I don't have much time for blogging right now.   Here is a lottery post for you:


Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

Photo: John Midgley
Is the apparent randomness of the scratch ticket just a facade, a mathematical lie?
Photo: John Midgley

Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, was working in his office in June 2003, waiting for some files to download onto his computer, when he discovered a couple of old lottery tickets buried under some paper on his desk. The tickets were cheap scratchers—a gag gift from his squash partner—and Srivastava found himself wondering if any of them were winners. He fished a coin out of a drawer and began scratching off the latex coating. “The first was a loser, and I felt pretty smug,” Srivastava says. “I thought, ‘This is exactly why I never play these dumb games.’”

The second ticket was a tic-tac-toe game. Its design was straightforward: On the right were eight tic-tac-toe boards, dense with different numbers. On the left was a box headlined “Your Numbers,” covered with a scratchable latex coating. The goal was to scrape off the latex and compare the numbers under it to the digits on the boards. If three of “Your Numbers” appeared on a board in a straight line, you’d won. Srivastava matched up each of his numbers with the digits on the boards, and much to his surprise, the ticket had a tic-tac-toe. Srivastava had won $3. “This is the smallest amount you can win, but I can’t tell you how excited it made me,” he says. “I felt like the king of the world.”

Delighted, he decided to take a lunchtime walk to the gas station to cash in his ticket. “On my way, I start looking at the tic-tac-toe game, and I begin to wonder how they make these things,” Srivastava says. “The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers. Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits. But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets. The game can’t be truly random. Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”
Srivastava speaks quietly, with a slight stammer. He has a neatly trimmed beard and a messy office. When he talks about a subject he’s interested in—and he’s interested in many things, from military encryption to freshwater fossils—his words start to run into each other.

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. “At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets,” he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee he’d bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”

That afternoon, he went back to work. The thrill of winning had worn off; he forgot about his lunchtime adventure. But then, as he walked by the gas station later that evening, something strange happened. “I swear I’m not the kind of guy who hears voices,” Srivastava says. “But that night, as I passed the station, I heard a little voice coming from the back of my head. I’ll never forget what it said: ‘If you do it that way, if you use that algorithm, there will be a flaw. The game will be flawed. You will be able to crack the ticket. You will be able to plunder the lottery.’”

The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business, an industry bigger than movie tickets, music, and porn combined. These tickets have a grand history: Lotteries were used to fund the American colonies and helped bankroll the young nation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, lotteries funded the expansion of Harvard and Yale and allowed the construction of railroads across the continent. Since 1964, when New Hampshire introduced the first modern state lottery, governments have come to rely on gaming revenue. (Forty-three states and every Canadian province currently run lotteries.) In some states, the lottery accounts for more than 5 percent of education funding.

While approximately half of Americans buy at least one lottery ticket at some point, the vast majority of tickets are purchased by about 20 percent of the population. These high-frequency players tend to be poor and uneducated, which is why critics refer to lotteries as a regressive tax. (In a 2006 survey, 30 percent of people without a high school degree said that playing the lottery was a wealth-building strategy.) On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries—a source of hope for just a few bucks a throw.
Photo: John Midgley
Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, realized that the logic he used to find gold deposits could also crack lottery cards.
Photo: John Midgley

There was a time when scratch games all but sold themselves. But in the past two decades the competition for the gambling dollar has dramatically increased. As a result, many state lotteries have redesigned their tickets. One important strategy involves the use of what lottery designers call extended play. Although extended-play games—sometimes referred to as baited hooks—tend to look like miniature spreadsheets, they’ve proven extremely popular with consumers. Instead of just scratching off the latex and immediately discovering a loser, players have to spend time matching up the revealed numbers with the boards. Ticket designers fill the cards with near-misses (two-in-a-row matchups instead of the necessary three) and players spend tantalizing seconds looking for their win. No wonder players get hooked.

Srivastava had been hooked by a different sort of lure—that spooky voice, whispering to him about a flaw in the game. At first, he tried to brush it aside. “Like everyone else, I assumed that the lottery was unbreakable,” he says. “There’s no way there could be a flaw, and there’s no way I just happened to discover the flaw on my walk home.”

And yet, his inner voice refused to pipe down. “I remember telling myself that the Ontario Lottery is a multibillion-dollar-a- year business,” he says. “They must know what they’re doing, right?”

That night, however, he realized that the voice was right: The tic-tac-toe lottery was seriously flawed. It took a few hours of studying his tickets and some statistical sleuthing, but he discovered a defect in the game: The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating. Nothing needed to be scratched off—the ticket could be cracked if you knew the secret code.

The trick itself is ridiculously simple. (Srivastava would later teach it to his 8-year-old daughter.) Each ticket contained eight tic-tac-toe boards, and each space on those boards—72 in all—contained an exposed number from 1 to 39. As a result, some of these numbers were repeated multiple times. Perhaps the number 17 was repeated three times, and the number 38 was repeated twice. And a few numbers appeared only once on the entire card. Srivastava’s startling insight was that he could separate the winning tickets from the losing tickets by looking at the number of times each of the digits occurred on the tic-tac-toe boards. In other words, he didn’t look at the ticket as a sequence of 72 random digits. Instead, he categorized each number according to its frequency, counting how many times a given number showed up on a given ticket. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he says. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.” Srivastava was looking for singletons, numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.

The next day, on his way into work, he stopped at the gas station and bought a few more tickets. Sure enough, all of these tickets contained the telltale pattern. The day after that he picked up even more tickets from different stores. These were also breakable. After analyzing his results, Srivastava realized that the singleton trick worked about 90 percent of the time, allowing him to pick the winning tickets before they were scratched.

His next thought was utterly predictable: “I remember thinking, I’m gonna be rich! I’m gonna plunder the lottery!” he says. However, these grandiose dreams soon gave way to more practical concerns. “Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited,” Srivastava says. “I’d have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That’s not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets.”

Instead of secretly plundering the game, he decided to go to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Srivastava thought its top officials might want to know about his discovery. Who knows, maybe they’d even hire him to give them statistical advice. “People often assume that I must be some extremely moral person because I didn’t take advantage of the lottery,” he says. “I can assure you that that’s not the case. I’d simply done the math and concluded that beating the game wasn’t worth my time.”

When Srivastava reported his finding, he was referred to Rob Zufelt, a member of the lottery corporation’s security team. After failing to make contact for a few days, he began to get frustrated: Why wasn’t Zufelt taking his revelation more seriously? “I really got the feeling that he was brushing me off,” Srivastava says. “But then I realized that to him I must sound like a crazy person—like one of those people who claims that he can crack the lotto draw because last night’s number was his birthday spelled backward. No wonder they didn’t want to talk to me.” Instead of trying to get Zufelt to return his calls, Srivastava decided to send him a package. He bought 20 tic-tac-toe tickets and sorted them, unscratched, into piles of winners and losers. Then, he couriered the package to Zufelt along with the following note:

In the enclosed envelopes, I have sent you two groups of 10 TicTacToe tickets that I purchased from various outlets around Toronto in the past week… You go ahead and scratch off the cards. Maybe you can give one batch to your lottery ticket specialist. After you’ve scratched them off, you should have a pretty solid sense for whether or not there’s something fishy here.

The package was sent at 10 am. Two hours later, he received a call from Zufelt. Srivastava had correctly predicted 19 out of the 20 tickets. The next day, the tic-tac-toe game was pulled from stores.
How to Pick a Winner
The first lottery Mohan Srivastava decoded was a tic-tac-toe game run by the Ontario Lottery in 2003. He was able to identify winning tickets with 90 percent accuracy. Here’s how it works.—J.L.
1
Look over the card. You’ll be hunting for so-called singletons—numbers on the visible tic-tac-toe grid that appear only once on the whole card.
2
Make a plot of the card, marking each cell with a number that indicates how many times the numeral in the cell occurs on the whole card. If, for example, a cell has a 26 in it and the number 26 occurs one other time somewhere on the card, mark that cell with a 2.
3
All the singletons will now be marked with a 1. If any of the singletons appear in a tic-tac-toe then the ticket is almost certainly a winner: The numbers in these cells will appear under the latex coating at the left side of the ticket. Keep the ticket.
4
Scratch off the latex. You’ve got a winner! Not surprisingly, after Srivastava alerted the Ontario Lottery to his technique, the game was pulled from stores.
The official explanation from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is that the tic-tac-toe game suffered from a “design flaw.” According to Tony Bitonti, a senior manager of media relations at the Ontario Lottery, the printer of the game, Pollard Banknote, provided “written assurances” that “none of the other instant games it printed were impacted by this.” As a result, the Ontario Lottery continued to sell scratch tickets with baited hooks. The story of the broken game got little public attention. It was, however, cited in a 2007 investigative report by the Ontario ombudsman, who was investigating retailer fraud.

Srivastava, meanwhile, was becoming even more interested in scratch tickets. “It got to the point where I knew I needed to get back to my real job,” he says. “But I found it hard to believe that only this tic-tac-toe game was flawed. What were the odds that I just happened to stumble upon the only breakable game the very first time I played the lottery? Of course, I knew it was possible that every other scratch game was totally secure. I just didn’t think it was very likely.”

He began by looking at other tic-tac-toe games in the US and Canada. Srivastava soon discovered that it wasn’t just an Ontario problem. At the time, one of his best friends was living in Colorado, and Srivastava asked him to send along a few tickets. It turned out that the same singleton trick also worked on the Colorado game, albeit with only a 70 percent level of accuracy. (Colorado Lottery officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Srivastava was even able to break a Super Bingo game (sold in Ontario in 2007), which also featured an elaborate baited hook. In this case, he says he could sort winners from losers with a 70 percent success rate. The Ontario Lottery says the Super Bingo game didn’t have the same flaw as the tic-tac-toe game but that it was pulled off the Ontario market in March 2007 as a precaution.

In North America, the vast majority of lottery tickets—everything from daily draw Pick 4-style games to small-stakes tic-tac-toe and bingo scratchers—are produced by a handful of companies like Scientific Games, Gtech Printing, and Pollard Banknote. These publicly traded firms oversee much of the development, algorithm design, and production of the different gambling games, and the state lotteries are largely dependent on their expertise. Ross Dalton is president of Gtech Printing, and he acknowledges that the “breakability” of tickets is a constant concern. (Several other printing companies declined to comment.) “Every lottery knows that it’s one scandal away from being shut down,” Dalton says. “It’s a constant race to stay ahead of the bad guys.” In recent years, Dalton says, the printers have become increasingly worried about forensic breaking, the possibility of criminals using sophisticated imaging technology to see underneath the latex. (Previous forensic hacks have included vodka, which swelled the hidden ink, and the careful use of X-Acto knives.) The printers have also become concerned about the barcodes on the tickets, since the data often contains information about payouts. “We’re always looking at new methods of encryption and protection,” Dalton says. “There’s a lot of money at stake in these games.”

While the printers insist that all of their tickets are secure—”We’ve learned from our past security breaches,” Dalton says—there is suggestive evidence that some state lotteries have been gamed. Consider 2003 payout statistics from Washington and Virginia, which Srivastava calculated. (Many lotteries disclose claimed prizes on their websites.) In both states, certain scratch games generated payout anomalies that should be extremely rare. The anomalies are always the same: Break-even tickets—where the payout is equal to the cost—are significantly underredeemed while certain types of winning tickets are vastly overredeemed. Take a blackjack scratch ticket sold by Virginia: While there were far too few $2 break-even winners redeemed, there were far too many $4, $6, $10, and $20 winners. In fact, the majority of scratch games with baited hooks in Washington and Virginia displayed this same irregularity. It’s as if people had a knack for buying only tickets that paid out more than they cost.

According to Srivastava, that could well be what’s happening. (The state lotteries insist that people simply forget to redeem break-even tickets, although it remains unclear why only some games show the anomaly.) “Just imagine if there were people who made a living off plundering the lottery,” he says. “The first thing you’d want to do is avoid the losing or break-even tickets, which is why they’re underreported. They’re a waste of time. Instead, you’d want to buy only the tickets that made money. If there were people doing this, if there were people who could sort the winners from the losers, then what you’d see on the payout statistics is exactly what we see. This is what a plundered game looks like.”

I then ask Srivastava how a criminal organization might plunder the lottery. He lays out a surprisingly practical plan for what he would do: “At first glance, the whole problem with plundering is one of scale,” he says. “I probably couldn’t sort enough tickets while standing at the counter of the mini-mart. So I’d probably want to invent some sort of scanning device that could quickly sort the tickets for me.” Of course, Srivastava might look a little suspicious if he started bringing a scanner and his laptop into corner stores. But that may not be an insurmountable problem. “Lots of people buy lottery tickets in bulk to give away as prizes for contests,” he says. He asked several Toronto retailers if they would object to him buying tickets and then exchanging the unused, unscratched tickets. “Everybody said that would be totally fine. Nobody was even a tiny bit suspicious,” he says. “Why not? Because they all assumed the games are unbreakable. So what I would try to do is buy up lots of tickets, run them through my scanning machine, and then try to return the unscratched losers. Of course, you could also just find a retailer willing to cooperate or take a bribe. That might be easier.” The scam would involve getting access to opened but unsold books of tickets. A potential plunderer would need to sort through these tickets and selectively pick the winners. The losers would be sold to unwitting customers—or returned to the lottery after the game was taken off the market.

At the moment, Srivastava’s suspicions remain entirely hypothetical; there is no direct evidence that anybody has plundered a game. Nevertheless, there’s a disturbing body of anecdotal evidence (in addition to those anomalous statistics) that suggests that the games aren’t perfect. Consider a series of reports by the Massachusetts state auditor. The reports describe a long list of troubling findings, such as the fact that one person cashed in 1,588 winning tickets between 2002 and 2004 for a grand total of $2.84 million. (The report does not provide the name of the lucky winner.) A 1999 audit found that another person cashed in 149 tickets worth $237,000, while the top 10 multiple-prize winners had won 842 times for a total of $1.8 million. Since only six out of every 100,000 tickets yield a prize between $1,000 and $5,000, the auditor dryly observed that these “fortunate” players would have needed to buy “hundreds of thousands to millions of tickets.” (The report also noted that the auditor’s team found that full and partial ticket books were being abandoned at lottery headquarters in plastic bags.)

According to Massachusetts State Lottery officials, the auditor’s reports have led to important reforms, such as requiring everyone who claims a prize over $600 to present government-issued identification. The auditor attributed the high number of payouts going to single individuals to professional cashers. These cashers turn in others’ winning tickets—they are paid a small percentage—so the real winners can avoid taxes. But if those cashers were getting prepicked winners, that could be hard to uncover. “There’ve been quite a bit of improvements since we started identifying these issues,” says Glenn Briere, a spokesperson for Massachusetts auditor Joe DeNucci. “The problem is that when there’s a lot of money involved, unscrupulous people are always going to be looking for new ways to game the system, or worse.”

Furthermore, the Massachusetts lottery has a history of dispensing large payouts to suspected criminals, at least in one Mass Millions game. In 1991, James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious South Boston mob boss currently on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list—he’s thought to be the inspiration for the Frank Costello character in The Departed—and three others cashed in a winning lottery ticket worth $14.3 million. He collected more than $350,000 before his indictment.

At the time, authorities thought Bulger was using the lottery to launder money: take illicit profits, buy a share in a winning lottery ticket, redeem it, and end up with clean cash. In this respect, the lottery system seems purpose-built for organized crime, says Michael Plichta, unit chief of the FBI’s organized crime section. “When I was working in Puerto Rico, I watched all these criminals use traditional lottery games to clean their money,” he remembers. “You’d bring these drug guys in, and you’d ask them where their income came from, how they could afford their mansion even though they didn’t have a job, and they’d produce all these winning lottery tickets. That’s when I began to realize that they were using the games to launder cash.”

The problem for the criminals, of course, is that unless cracked, most lotteries return only about 53 cents on the dollar, which means that they’d be forfeiting a significant share of their earnings. But what if criminals aren’t playing the lottery straight? What if they have a method that, like Srivastava’s frequency-of-occurrence trick, can dramatically increase the odds of winning? As Srivastava notes, if organized crime had a system that could identify winning tickets more than 65 percent of the time, then the state-run lottery could be turned into a profitable form of money laundering. “You’ve got to realize that, for people in organized crime, making piles of money is one of their biggest problems,” says Charles Johnston, a supervisory special agent in the organized crime section of the FBI. “If they could find a way to safely launder money without taking too big a loss, then I can guarantee you they’d start doing it in a heartbeat.” There is no direct evidence that criminals are actually using these government-run gambling games to hide their crimes. But the circumstantial evidence, as noted by the FBI, is certainly troubling.

And then there’s Joan Ginther, who has won more than $1 million from the Texas Lottery on four different occasions. She bought two of the winners from the same store in Bishop, Texas. What’s strangest of all, perhaps, is that three of Ginther’s wins came from scratch tickets with baited hooks and not from Mega Millions or Powerball. Last June, Ginther won $10 million from a $50 ticket, which is the largest scratch prize ever awarded by the Texas Lottery.

Perhaps Ginther is simply the luckiest person on earth. (She has refused almost all requests from journalists for comment.) While the lotteries are extremely rigorous about various aspects of security, from the integrity of the latex to the cashing of tickets at stores, the industry appears to have not considered the possibility of plundering the games using the visible numbers on the ticket. For instance, when I contacted the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, their security experts couldn’t recall having heard of Mohan Srivastava or the broken Ontario games. This is one of the largest trade associations of lotteries in the world, and it had no recollection that at least a few of its games had been proven to be fatally flawed.

And this is why the story of the crackable tic-tac-toe tickets has larger significance. “The lottery corporations all insist that their games are safe because they are vetted by outside companies,” Srivastava says. “Well, they had an outside auditor approve the tic-tac-toe game. They said it couldn’t be broken. But it could.”

Fundamentally, he believes that creating impregnable tickets is extremely difficult, if not impossible. “There is nothing random about the lottery,” he says. “In reality, everything about the game has been carefully designed to control payouts and entice the consumer.” Of course, these elaborate design elements mean that the ticket can be undesigned, that the algorithm can be reverse-engineered. The veneer of chance can be peeled away.
What’s most disturbing, perhaps, is that even though Srivastava first brought these flaws to the attention of the authorities in 2003, they continue to appear. A few months ago, Srivastava bought some scratch tickets at convenience stores in Toronto. He started out with a Bingo ticket, which featured an elaborate hook. After a day of statistical analysis, Srivastava was able to double his chances of choosing a winning ticket. (Normally, 30 percent of the tickets feature a payout—he was able to select winners approximately 60 percent of the time.) “That might not sound very impressive, since I’m still going to buy plenty of losers,” Srivastava says. “But it’s a high enough percentage that one could launder money effectively.” In one of his most recent trials, conducted at the request of Wired, Srivastava identified six unscratched tickets as probable winners out of a set of 20 cards. If the tickets were uncrackable, approximately two of them should have been winners. Instead, Srivastava ended up with four. The odds of this happening by chance are approximately one in 50. And yet he’s done it multiple times with a variety of Bingo and Super Bingo games. (An Ontario Lottery spokesperson says they’re unaware of the issue.)

How did he do it? He used a version of the frequency trick. The number of times a digit appeared on the baited hook revealed crucial information about the bingo numbers underneath the latex coating. Srivastava could tilt the odds in his favor, like a gambler counting cards in a casino.

The fact that these games can be manipulated, that a geological statistician can defeat their algorithm, seems to undercut a crucial part of the lottery’s appeal. Everybody knows that the chances of winning a big payday are minuscule, a tiny 1 in front of an awful lot of zeros. But we play anyway, because hope is an irrational hunch. We assume that, even if the odds are stacked against us, we might get lucky. Today might be the day. And then, when the latex reveals a stack of losers, when we’ve lost our money yet again, we blame the fickleness of fate. But maybe our bad luck isn’t the problem. Maybe we never win because someone else has broken the game.
Contributing editor Jonah Lehrer (jonah.lehrer@gmail.com) wrote about the new science of stress in issue 18.08.
~~~~~~~

So the powers that be do not care that the cards and similar games can be "gamed."   You say, well, Powerball can't!  I guess you never saw the movie, "The Sting", huh?   Are you sure?  I bet you think Tim Donaghy didn't actually throw any NBA games he reffed, either, right? 


I knew professional drug dealers and pimps who filled out tax returns and listed their business as "gambler or  gaming."   It was and is legal to gamble in some states and places and now you can do it online.   The drug dealer would declare as much income as his purchases would indicate he made and launder and/or hide the rest.  Money laundering is supposed to be secretive.   Oh, and lotteries of all kinds are supposed to be completely random.   Oh, and NBA referees never bet on games or have contact with gamblers.  Oh, and no professional athletes are doing performance-enhancing drugs of any kind.  Oh, and there is no way any elected official would be skimming money from the till or hiring relatives to do nothing.  Etc.  So how gullible do you want to be?  Unless you are a Darwinist, because if you are you believe the impossible happens all the time.   So can lotteries be scammed?   If there is anything run by the government, it can be skimmed, scammed, tapped and looted.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Radar,

In the next comment, I will repost the discussion from the comments section (edited out are the comments not related to the discussion of powerball) of "What is a right? What is right?"

Reread this discussion. Did you jump the gun on calling Jon Woolf's ignorance massive? Did you really prove his ignorance is massive with this post? Did you prove POWERBALL is created with an algorithm that can be understood and exploited?


lava

Anonymous said...

Jon Woolf:[yawn] It's statistically impossible for anyone to ever win the Powerball. Happens all the time.

Radar: SD > As far as Powerball goes, your ignorance is massive here. There is an algorithm used to create lotteries which some have understood and exploited, which is why there is a woman in Texas that has won FOUR of them and a crime boss who has over a million in winnings in scratch-off games.

To win at Powerball is a small chance, whereas the formation of one living cell from matter is one to the power of a number greater than all the atoms in the Universe even assuming it could happen. But biochemical reactions put up unscalable walls to formation of DNA or RNA even without a cell. The molecular level has destroyed Darwinism and the cellular level has destroyed Darwinism for now we have a good idea how things work within organisms and for this to have happened by accident even once is ludicrous.

On the other hand, Powerball is by comparison so likely that, if life formed by chance once we would all have won Powerball several times by now. You just don't know what you are talking about.


lava: This point is collateral to the whole post, but it really illustrates Radar's arrogance: powerball is not really exploitable. Some scratch off games, while attempting to appear random, aren't-- there are ways to beat them(improve your odds of winning) by just viewing the ticket. Powerball is not a scratch off game. Powerball involves random balls being chosen, and is, in fact, random. So, Radar's comment, which was a reply to Jon's statement "It's statistically impossible for anyone to ever win the Powerball," is pretty uninformed. Or, as Radar might put it, Radar's ignorance is massive.

Radar: As for the lottery games and Powerball, I detect naivete. Rather than argue about it, I leave commmenters to their own research. Are there patterns in lotteries being run by the states? Is there a way to game the system? I will give you about a week and then give you some answers.

lava:For some reason, I doubt you will give some answers(not just some reason, I guess- probably because you abandon your series when the comments poke too many holes in your theories). And please remember we are talking about powerball, not scratch offs. I want to know how you think you can game the system.

Radar, I respect a man who concedes when he is wrong much more than a man who will fight tooth and nail even when he knows he is wrong.

So we should expect your answers around February 17? I will keep that in mind.

---

Anonymous said...

hmm.. seems to be deleting my comment. I'll try cutting it in half.


Jon Woolf:[yawn] It's statistically impossible for anyone to ever win the Powerball. Happens all the time.

Radar: SD > As far as Powerball goes, your ignorance is massive here. There is an algorithm used to create lotteries which some have understood and exploited, which is why there is a woman in Texas that has won FOUR of them and a crime boss who has over a million in winnings in scratch-off games.

To win at Powerball is a small chance, whereas the formation of one living cell from matter is one to the power of a number greater than all the atoms in the Universe even assuming it could happen. But biochemical reactions put up unscalable walls to formation of DNA or RNA even without a cell. The molecular level has destroyed Darwinism and the cellular level has destroyed Darwinism for now we have a good idea how things work within organisms and for this to have happened by accident even once is ludicrous.

On the other hand, Powerball is by comparison so likely that, if life formed by chance once we would all have won Powerball several times by now. You just don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

lava: This point is collateral to the whole post, but it really illustrates Radar's arrogance: powerball is not really exploitable. Some scratch off games, while attempting to appear random, aren't-- there are ways to beat them(improve your odds of winning) by just viewing the ticket. Powerball is not a scratch off game. Powerball involves random balls being chosen, and is, in fact, random. So, Radar's comment, which was a reply to Jon's statement "It's statistically impossible for anyone to ever win the Powerball," is pretty uninformed. Or, as Radar might put it, Radar's ignorance is massive.

Radar: As for the lottery games and Powerball, I detect naivete. Rather than argue about it, I leave commmenters to their own research. Are there patterns in lotteries being run by the states? Is there a way to game the system? I will give you about a week and then give you some answers.

lava:For some reason, I doubt you will give some answers(not just some reason, I guess- probably because you abandon your series when the comments poke too many holes in your theories). And please remember we are talking about powerball, not scratch offs. I want to know how you think you can game the system.

Radar, I respect a man who concedes when he is wrong much more than a man who will fight tooth and nail even when he knows he is wrong.

So we should expect your answers around February 17? I will keep that in mind.

---

Jon Woolf said...

Making the same tired old claims like "the fossil record is sequential", etc. Except rock layers get dated by the fossils and fossils get dated by the strata, it is circular and in the hands of Darwinists, so how do we know any of it is true?

Well, you could always go out and check it yourself, I suppose. After all, that's what the great geologists of past and present have done. And that's why you and your fellow cdesign proponentsists are not scientists and never will be.

You see, grasshopper, when you do examine the evidence, as gathered and analyzed by thousands of men and women over millions of man-hours, you find that why golly gee, conventional geology has it right! The fossil record really is sequential. Index fossils and index features really do provide reliable landmarks in the rocks. You really can correlate layers and determine their relative ages by the fossils they contain. No one has ever found Eopachydiscus marcianus together with Phacops rana, or Shonisaurus popularis with Physeter macrocephalus, or even Allosaurus fragilis with Tyrannosaurus rex. Never happened. Not even once. Search the entire modern record of geologic and paleontological discoveries, going back more than two centuries to William Smith and his first-ever geological map of England.

Oh, you think that statement is wrong? Okay, prove it. Show us some examples of fossils found out of sequence. Dinosaurs together with elephants, or rabbits with gorgonopsids, or mosasaurs with whales. Or any other two groups that are widely separated in the conventional geologic column.

(Definite examples only, please, with provenance that is beyond question. While cdesign proponentsists may be gullible enough to be suckered by the fun-loving folk of Glen Rose, the rest of us aren't.)

scohen said...

"Trying to allow a commenter to have private conversations with a young friend of mine that he is unwilling to share with me. I told this commenter he could write an article for me to post but he has declined. If we can't see it, then forget it!"

Radar,
Aside from the fact that I have repeatedly said that I would send you the entire conversation with Kevin, you must know that email makes it so that Kevin would *also* have the entire conversation --wich he could then send to you. There's no way that I'd be 'unwilling' to share.

Your claim is, quite simply, not true.

My request still stands, and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop mischaracterizing it.

I'm really disappointed with your behavior.

Anonymous whatsit said...

Huh, so Radar accuses commenters of changing the subject while in the very same post he pastes an enormous article in an attempt to change the subject from what lava so clearly pointed out to him even in the last post: that he accused Jon Woolf of "massive ignorance" about Powerball, not scratch-off tickets.

So now Radar is desperately changing the subject to scratch-off tickets and coming out with one evasion after another...

Radar, why not admit you misspoke on the Powerball thing and be done with it?

Jon Woolf said...

"Radar, why not admit you misspoke on the Powerball thing and be done with it?"

Because he can't bear the thought of giving his enemies any victory, however small. It's a very common fault. Almost universal.

radar said...

Fair is fair, half of Jon's comment is right. I could find no evidence of powerball being fixed. Pretty much every other kind of game involving cards and stuff use algorithms that are breakable and beatable but the only way to cheat Powerball would be to pull off a sting and that is highly unlikely. Not as unlikely as even one living organism ever arising by chance, but still very unlikely.

Jon's statement that winning at powerball is statistically impossible remains wrong.

Also, his statement that bacteria have no language is wrong, and his definition of information is wrong and all sorts of other assertions wrong.

But he got me on one.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Radar admits that he misspoke. Good for you, Radar.

I only continued to harp on this issue to make a point. You really have to box radar in on a single issue and lay it all out for him to retract his statement or to even examine an issue closely. I had to drag this out over 3 different posts. And a single post of his usually attempts to bring down hundreds of years of established science across multiple disciplines...well, that makes it is near impossible to box him in on all, or any of, those points. Jon Woolf, anonymous, creeper (wherever you are)- keep up the good fight, but I don't think you are ever going to get radar to admit being wrong on the big points.

Jon's statement that winning at powerball is statistically impossible remains wrong.

Have you heard of hyperbole?

lava

Anonymous whatsit said...

"Not as unlikely as even one living organism ever arising by chance, but still very unlikely."

All the statistical "analyses" I've ever seen on this subject are always based on vastly insufficient data and poor logic. They simply say: here's an organism (e.g. cell). It consists of x number of parts. What are the chances of these components falling together completely by chance? This is also the thinking behind the old "747 from a tornado going through a scrapyard" nonsense.

There are several problems with the logic here:

1. They don't take into account that life could have arisen gradually in smaller steps, each of which can be far less statistically unlikely.

2. It is invariably based on pure random chance and doesn't take into account any mechanism at all, including reproduction with variation plus natural selection. The fact of the matter is that to come up with a meaningful statistical analysis, one has to take the process into account. Otherwise, any such statistical "analyses" (more like back-of-a-napkin calculation) should be prefaced with "if they were jumbled together in a single process at random".

To use a pure lottery example again, if one assumes a purely random process (as all Powerball-like lottery games aim to do), then the odds of picking a winning set of numbers can be easily calculated.

But what if what goes on inside that box is not completely random? What if there is some kind of selection process going on?

For example, let's say the winning set of numbers have to be close to the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70. And the big box in which the balls are mixed up features successive filters that discard balls that are furthest removed from those numbers.

We can agree that this has the potential to drastically alter the odds... can't we?

Anonymous whatsit said...

Your comment nails it, lava. Radar's most outstanding trait isn't intellect or even evidence, but sheer stubbornness and pride.

There are so many falsehoods in Radar's post (and ironically most of them are attempts to change the subject) that it would take hours to document them all, a task made even less appealing by the knowledge that Radar will ignore it, follow up with another massive copypasta job in a day or two and within weeks repeat the same falsehoods anyway.

Sticking to any one subject is a losing proposition for YEC, as its shortcomings will be revealed quite quickly.

Captain Stubing said...

"So can lotteries be scammed? If there is anything run by the government, it can be skimmed, scammed, tapped and looted."

Since it's now been established in the discussion that Powerball is not scammed and actually can't be, short of something like an actual break-in (and even then I would think that it's difficult to impossible, given the security measures in place for that kind of stuff), your "logical" conclusion here falls way short of the mark.

Your reasoning process, such as it is, in this case goes a bit like this:

1. Governments are bad (just because they are, I suppose).
2. Lotteries are run by governments.
3. Therefore lotteries are bad.

Sloppy thinking.

radar said...

Jon's ignorance of most subjects seems massive and thus his grandiosity when discussing things as if talking down to the people reading the comments thread. I was floored when he said bacteria do not have a language! I was floored when he said powerball is impossible to win. If you believe that as well, hey, enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Jon's "ignorance of most subjects" is far from demonstrated. If you could provide scientific answers to his many questions with ease, you might have a leg to stand on with this overblown claim, but since you routinely cower and evade, Jon clearly has the upper hand.

"I was floored when he said Powerball is impossible to win."

It was clear to more than one reader that he was exaggerating. If you'd like, I suspect Jon would be happy to amend his statement to "almost impossible to win" to suit your requirements.

In the meantime, could you provide some legs for your claim that abiogenesis is "statistically impossible" to stand on? Or would you be willing to admit that this, too, was said in the spirit of rhetorical exaggeration?

In the meantime, what on Earth is up with your misrepresenting the very reasonable request that scohen made?

radar said...

"Your reasoning process, such as it is, in this case goes a bit like this:

1. Governments are bad (just because they are, I suppose).
2. Lotteries are run by governments.
3. Therefore lotteries are bad.

Sloppy thinking."


By this statement you reveal that you did not read the article. It goes like this:

1 - Lotteries are being beaten by analysis so that they are being gamed.
2 - Governments have been notified.
3 - Governments have tried to sweep these things under the rug rather than correct them.
4 - One reason may well be that individuals in government are making side money from the process

No idea how old you are or what you know about government, but really in the USA there are many government groups like Democrat political machines in Detroit and Chicago and Gary and East Chicago who have in reality a fiefdom because the voters are too stupid or ignorant to do anything but vote Democrat. The individual leaders who do not get caught and tossed in jail drive big cars, put lots of relatives on ghost payrolls and run their cities into the ground (Other than Chicago, where they have learned to be leeches that don't take too much blood). Detroit and Gary are on the verge of bankruptcy.

There are big-time movers and shakers who are behind a LOT of politicians FYI. I am unfortunately aware of many of them.

I have posted many articles concerning the myriad hard stops for any possibility at all of abiogenesis.

scohen's demand is unreasonable. I told him he could share his GA information with us all but that he would NOT get a private connection with one of my students.

scohen said...

"scohen's demand is unreasonable."

Why?

Why is it unreasonable to speak with someone (who is an adult, by the way) anonymously about technical matters?

Jon Woolf said...

You've been suckered again, Radar. :-)

I was floored when he said powerball is impossible to win.

I didn't say that. You inferred it from what I did say, thus demonstrating how little you understand of statistics and probability theory.

So that everyone knows what we're talking about: In Powerball, a machine randomly selects six numbered balls - five white balls and the red Powerball. The numbers on the white balls range from 1 to 59; the number on the Powerball can be 1 to 39. To pick the whole winning combination, you must pick:

* the first white ball (1 in 59 chance)
* the second white ball (1 in 58 chance)
* white ball #3 (1 in 57)
* white ball #4 (1 in 56)
* white ball #5 (1 in 55)
* Powerball (1 in 39)

Thus, the chance of any single ticket getting all six numbers right is 1 in (59x58x57x56x55x39), or 1 in 23,429,886,480. One chance in twenty-three billion. Drawing a natural royal flush in poker looks inevitable by comparison. To point in advance to any single ticket and say "This ticket will win Powerball this week" is ridiculous.

Does this mean it's impossible to win Powerball? No, of course not. It's statistically impossible for any single ticket to be identified in advance as a winner. But the chance that at least one winning ticket has been sold for a specific drawing depends on how many tickets were sold, and how many different number combinations are on those tickets. The more tickets are sold, and the more different numbers are picked, the higher the chances are that someone will win the next drawing.

The same thing is at work in biogenesis calculations. You may be able to calculate the probability that some specific protein might appear, but that number is irrelevant. The relevant number is the probability that some protein with the same function might appear -- and no one can calculate that, because we don't know how many possible 'winning' combinations there are.

Captain Stubing said...

Or, in even simpler terms: it's almost impossible that you will win the Powerball. But it's quite likely that somebody will.

Captain Stubing said...

"By this statement you reveal that you did not read the article."

1. I did read the article, and as it happens your blog was not the first to bring it to my attention. Yes, it's interesting. And it's also completely irrelevant to the arguments you're trying to make.

2. By your comment you reveal that you did not read my comment, or the comments above it, including your own admission that the whole pasted article was irrelevant to the Powerball argument. Is it possible that even now you fail to realize that the article itself is simply an attempt on your part to change the subject, which is all you're doing with this response as well? Difficult to imagine, but not impossible.

"It goes like this:

1 - Lotteries are being beaten by analysis so that they are being gamed.
2 - Governments have been notified.
3 - Governments have tried to sweep these things under the rug rather than correct them.
4 - One reason may well be that individuals in government are making side money from the process"

You're still pursuing the misdirection (aka "changing the subject" aka "rabbit trails"), and you still haven't demonstrated anything to support your argument regarding Powerball.

Captain Stubing said...

Your initial statement is false: Powerball is not being beaten by analysis. That's where your supposed argument ends.

"No idea how old you are"

... or why that would be relevant...

"or what you know about government"

... back to the first item of the fallacious argument I presented above...

"but really in the USA there are many government groups like Democrat political machines in Detroit and Chicago and Gary and East Chicago who have in reality a fiefdom because the voters are too stupid or ignorant to do anything but vote Democrat. The individual leaders who do not get caught and tossed in jail drive big cars, put lots of relatives on ghost payrolls and run their cities into the ground (Other than Chicago, where they have learned to be leeches that don't take too much blood). Detroit and Gary are on the verge of bankruptcy. There are big-time movers and shakers who are behind a LOT of politicians FYI. I am unfortunately aware of many of them."

Massive non sequitur (aka "changing the subject", btw). All you're doing here is heading back to the first item of the fallacious argument I pointed out earlier - again.

"I have posted many articles concerning the myriad hard stops for any possibility at all of abiogenesis."

You've presented numerous instances of arguments from incredulity. Apparently you can't grasp why that is a logical fallacy, even though you occasionally post lists of logical fallacies for other people to read, apparently without reading or digesting them yourself.

Captain Stubing said...

"scohen's demand is unreasonable."

scohen's request to have a straight conversation with a fellow person in the actual field with full respect for that person's anonymity is anything but unreasonable.

Let's not forget that you not only misrepresented scohen's arguments re. GA both on your blog and apparently in person to this alleged "Kevin", but you also cloak yourself in "Kevin's" alleged expertise in such matters to support your argument.

"I told him he could share his GA information with us all but that he would NOT get a private connection with one of my students."

Again: it's not a private connection because scohen has said up front he would share the conversation when he first suggested the idea. And "Kevin" can of course do so as well and so you can verify that the presentation will be complete and true.

It's a connection that's not filtered through your editorializing. That's the difference, and that's what bothers you.

Is this the same Radar that complains about lack of openness, that champions "going where the evidence leads", that claims to abhor censorship?

Walk the walk, Radar.

scohen and "Kevin" can have a direct communication that doesn't violate "Kevin's" privacy in any way whatsoever.

It's pretty clear at this point - if "Kevin" actually exists - that you actually misrepresented whatever "Kevin" had to say, and you're scared now that this will be exposed in public.

Now think, Radar, think hard.

What would a Christian do?

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