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‘Hey Bill Nye, Is Playing the Lottery Rational?’ #TuesdaysWithBill | Big Think

‘Hey Bill Nye, Is Playing the Lottery Rational?’
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The chances of winning the US lottery are 250 million to one, and in some cases higher. It’s not a small game of poker against some friends, instead it’s gambling against every citizen who buys a ticket. And perhaps it’s not much; two dollars to play each time. But the money adds up, and there are even cases of lottery addiction.

On Last Week with John Oliver, Oliver said, “Gambling is a little like alcohol. Most people like it, some are addicted to it, and it’s not like the state can or should outlaw it all together. But it would be a little strange if the state was in the liquor business, advertising it by claiming that every shot of vodka you drink helps school children learn.”

And this is true – many state lotteries claim that its profits go to education, but it isn’t exactly so. Money in the government budget is reallocated, borrowed, and moves around so much it’s hard to keep track, so the lotto money ends up not going straight to public education as advertised.

According to Bill Nye, the lottery acts as a tax on those who can least afford it. Most of the people who play the lottery statistically come from lower income and lower education backgrounds. This means that those who are measuring every dollar they earn may misguidedly waste crucial funds on the lottery, spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on a slim chance that they could win, even though it’s massively likely that they never will. Perhaps they’ll win a small five-dollar reward, a low return on what they’ve poured in over the years, but that winning five bucks – this is the experience people remember. Just like gambling, people remember the adrenaline rush of their luck, and forget the many times they’ve lost.

That’s why people keep on playing the lottery. Is it rational? Absolutely not, says Nye, who goes on to say that people need to be educated on the game they’re playing. If more public personas like John Oliver and Bill Nye can bring the issue to broader attention, at the very least it might allow people to make an informed decision.

Bill Nye’s most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.
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BILL NYE:

Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.

In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.

While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”

Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.

Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
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TRANSCRIPT:

Uri: Hi Bill. My name is Uri. My question is about giving some chance to the chance. The probability of winning a lottery is very, very small. Nevertheless is playing lottery rational? Thanks.

Bill Nye: The lottery. Uri, Uri, Uri. I’ve…

Read the full transcript at https://bigthink.com/videos/bill-nye-on-the-chances-of-winning-the-lottery

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