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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

September 9, 2009 - Just Another Day
By Paul Tomori
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 at 23:49:57 (EDT)

The odds of winning Lotto 6/49 with the following selection seem possible, right?


Yet, the odds of winning Lotto 6/49 with the following selection seem downright ludicrous, right?


The odds are actually the same.

The illusion or randomness in people's selection of numbers sells a lot of tickets. The illusion of sticking with numbers you have always played sells a lot of tickets. The illusion of picking numbers based on loved one's birth-dates... that too sells a lot of tickets.

To depict this visually, imagine any random mix-up of the Rubik's cube. That particular arrangement of the cubes is mathematically just as difficult to achieve as the so-called "solved" Rubik's cube. This seems a bit counter-intuitive, but it is true.

As a programmer and math enthusiast, I am all for a fascination with numbers and patterns. I love statistics and metrics. And, it's easy to see why those who are superstitious will borrow fragments from the mathematics lexicon to add legitimacy to their attachment to numerology. Superstitious folks will similarly borrow a term like "energy" from the legitimate field of science of physics to try to legitimize ethereal notions that have no basis in science (i.e. spiritual considerations aside, they speak of people's "energies" living on after they die).

Many illusions are harmless and perhaps a bit fun. Yet, illusions can be downright dangerous if the belief becomes compelling to destructive actions. For example, the Gambler's Fallacy occurs when future wagers on random events are predicated on the results of previous random events. In Roulette, the idea that number 17 just came up means that it is unlikely to come up immediately afterward, right? Wrong. Both spins are subject to equal randomness. In American Roulette, you have a 1 in 38 chance of hitting on the number 17 (Amercian Roulette has a zero and a double-zero in addition to the 1-36 sequence). Whether or not you do hit on 17, makes no difference to the next spin. On the next spin, you again have a 1 in 38 chance to hit on 17. Yet, the casinos have a display boards showing the last 10 spins... presumably feeding people's illusion of connectedness between spins. In my view, this should be illegal, but alas, there are just too many people who would cry foul or who would simply start recording the numbers themselves in little notebooks.

Today, was September 9, 2009. 09-09-09. Ooooohhhh scary. Or fun. Or whatever you want it to be. Notwithstanding the fact, that some cultures don't follow the Gregorian Calendar which shifted dates somewhat arbitrarily in around the 15th century and notwithstanding the fact that our calendar starts more or less arbitrarily anyway based on a Christian milestone, today is sequentially really just the day after yesterday. The numbers we attach to it are nominal and mere convenience, not inherently indicative of anything ominous or ethereal.

Apple (the record company) released a re-mastered version of the Beatles catalogue today to play on the number 9 babbling on the White Album. If you decided to do something special today, well, that's ok. People do significant things on New Year's day too. We love the symbolism of such days to hold special events, have an excuse for family get-togethers, or just to make a fresh start with new resolutions. If we attach significance to any date or specifically today's date, then our actions are what will make the date significant, not anything inherent to the date itself. Because, on its own. September 9, 2009 is really just another day.

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