Sunday, January 28, 2007

Do you want to win the Lotto 6/49? Better brush up on your stats. Ok, I’ll do it for you.

One evening this week I was stuck at work babysitting a contractor, and when I ran out of work things to do my thoughts turned to dreams of winning the lottery. It might help if I actually played, but I know the odds are stacked heavily against me, and I pay enough in taxes as it is.

I recently read a book about the MIT blackjack team who, in their heyday, frequently fleeced Las Vegas casinos through a complex system of card counting, statistics and codes. When I went to university (Acadia is roughly the Canadian equivalent to MIT), I was forced to take a few stats courses that I was sure would never come in handy. Recently I got to refresh my knowledge while helping Joan through the last course in her masters program, econometrics. I decided I would finally apply my stats knowledge to something productive, analyzing all the draws in the 6/49 ever to see which numbers come up most often, and if they are statistically significant.

I found on the BC Lotto Corporation website that I could download the results of all draws since the very first 6/49 draw in 1982. There have been 2402 draws in total, up to last nights (January 27, 2007). I pasted these numbers into a table in Excel and then used a countif function to ascertain how many times each of the numbers has been drawn. The average number has been drawn just over 343 times in the 25 years of 6/49 draws. Now comes the fun part, are there numbers that come up more often? (Excel required to view this link)

The standard deviation of occurrences of numbers in draws is very close to a whopping 20, indicating a pretty wide spread in what is supposed to be a purely random process. I used Excel to tell me which numbers appeared more than 1 standard deviation from average. There were 7 numbers (27, 31, 34, 43, 45, 46, 47) that appeared more than 1 standard deviation from average. Nothing too exciting here, but what if we go out 2 standard deviations, 40 more occurrences than average? There are 4 numbers (31, 34, 43, 47) that fall into this category. Kind of makes you wonder if some of those balls are a little heavier than others?

So then I took the 4 number that seem to come up most often and paired them up with 2 of the 3 numbers that come up next most often. I found that over the years these numbers would have paid out in 60 draws, or about 2.5% of the time. Sadly if you had played these numbers twice a week since 1982 you would still not be a millionaire. Despite the fact that they come up more often than others, the 4 numbers that occur more than 2 standard deviations from average have never appeared together in the same draw. Further analysis shows that playing these numbers in every draw is most likely to net you only $10 or $50 when you win. If you play every draw in the year and win 2.5% of the time with my scheme you will likely win about $45/year. It will cost you $208 to win that $45 though, so you may be better off putting that cash in your savings account. That being said, it is only a matter of time before the stars align, and all these significant digits show up in the same draw, and you would be an instant millionaire. If you apply my stats and win, please give me a cut.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I have often wondered if Stéphane Dion reads my blog. I think that after his remarks today, which were an blatant rip-off of my commentary from this past May 6th, it is safe to say he does. All I'm asking for, Mr. Dion, is that you give credit where credit is due!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Don’t blame Rona Ambrose, blame El Nino!

Earlier this week Prime Minister Harper shuffled his cabinet and assigned embattled environment minister Rona Ambrose to a new portfolio. I will always remember Ambrose for her laughably poor defense of the Conservative’s “Clean Air Act,” a watered down, non-Kyoto-compliant plan to sort of reduce emissions. It was yet another instance of our national leader looking south and drawing on the sage-like wisdom of George W. Bush to determine the policy direction for our formerly independent country. Ambrose, of course, was just trying to do her job, and really, I don’t think I would have had much more intelligent to say about such an awful plan.

At any rate, it turns out we have nothing to worry about anyway. With 2007 slated to be the warmest year ever (well, I expect it was a little warmer just after the big bang, but nobody was really measuring the temperature at the time), it has been revealed that greenhouse gasses are not the real problem, it’s that pesky El Nino again.

But wait, like most Canadians, I enjoyed a green Christmas this year. White Christmases are in the minority here on the west coast anyway, but a white Christmas in Winnipeg is something to talk about. A few days later I was surprised to read of a massive chunk of ice breaking free from Ellsmere Island in the Canadian North. I thought at first, “no problem, it’s El Nino.” Then I read further in the article and discovered that the ice actually broke off a year and a half ago, long before this round of El Nino was even on the radar.

So it would seem that maybe we cannot conveniently blame El Nino for everything that is going wrong with our climate. Maybe it was a smart move to get rid of Ambrose and hopefully get someone in who actually has a clue about environmental issues. But maybe we have not gone far enough. I think if we want real change, we have to stop shooting the messenger and go right to the source. I think it is time to topple our half-baked, watered-down, Bush-worshipping Conservative government and vote in leadership that has the strength and vision to come up with truly innovative solutions to the problems this country is facing.

In the meantime, I will be writing to Steven Harper to suggest he hold his next caucus meeting on the freely-floating Ayles shelf sometime round about July (if he’s still the PM by then).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year from the world famous blog of Andrew Baxter!

Before you accuse me of puffery or braggadocio, let me explain. 2006 was a year of extreme change for me.

I moved to Vancouver to be closer to Joan, and that has been working out really well. It is nice to see her every day instead of a couple times per month. Not to mention the fringe benefit of living in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada with green grass and flowers blooming year-round, great restaurants and more.

In February I quit my long-term job with EDS to go work for Rogers in Calgary, and then I quit that job to move to Vancouver. Now I am working in the best job I have ever had, the only drawback being my commute and my morning parking nightmare.

I had a whole pile of firsts in my life as well this year, some of which were more exciting than others. I got my fist passport, my first bonus, my first new car. I watched the World Cup for the first time with Joan. I drove from Calgary to Vancouver for the first (and likely last) time on my own. Over all it has been a very good year.

And that brings me back to my opening claim. While working at Rogers I was developing my search engine optimization skills. I came across some tools from Google that would allow me to track, in general terms, the visitors to my website and blog. Using Google Analytics, I now know that between my website and blog I have received visits from close to 1000 people from 5 continents (I wasn’t expecting any hits from Antarctica, but I am quite disappointed by the lack of visits from South America). So, in addition to all the other great things that happened this year, 2006 will also be known as the year this blogger became known throughout the world! It will be hard to top that in 2007, but I will try.