Betting against the system – Part 1

•27 December 2009 • 5 Comments

I was assured that there is no question of failure. There is no set of circumstances that could prevent the fulfilment of his prediction. The assurance I was given was that by 25 December 2010, my work colleague will win the lottery.

This display of psychic foretelling naturally piqued my interest. It seems my colleague was inspired by the 34-year-old Limpopo man who, this past November, won a R30 million jackpot in the first Powerball lottery draw, after previously winning a National lottery jackpot of R11 million in 2002. This colleague (let’s call him Lot) had stepped back from his original claim, uttered just minutes before, that he would win twice in 2010 to his new claim that he would win once (after all, why should he be greedy?) and it would be R10 million, enough to ensure a comfortable life well into retirement.

To explain why I wagered my money and to explore some of the logical fallacies in which gamblers engage, I will present the arguments in these three parts:

  • Part 1 – A little mathematics can be dangerous.
  • Part 2 – It doesn’t take much to convince yourself.
  • Part 3 – Is it a winning system?

Part 1 – A little mathematics can be dangerous

Having done just a little mathematics at University, and some statistics for good measure, I have long understood that it isn’t wise to plan your future around winning the lottery. My attitude to the lottery (and casinos too, by the way) is captured by the phrase; “The lottery is a tax on people who don’t understand mathematics.” But how could I start the discussion without being dismissed as a nay-sayer? A number of ordinary challenges crossed my mind: “impossible”; “never”; “are you barking mad?” Finally I settled on one that would at least get the debate going; “If you win the lottery jackpot in 2010, I will pay you R10 000.”

Continue reading ‘Betting against the system – Part 1′

Gauteng Sceptics in the Pub: A Survey

•21 September 2009 • Leave a Comment

If you have been interested in attending a Gauteng meeting of Sceptics in the Pub but have found the date or location to be inconvenient, now is your chance to have your say on where and when future meetings should be held.

When selecting a day of the week, keep in mind that we aim to start at 7PM so select days which are convenient for that time. To date, all meetings have been held in the Johannesburg or Midrand area, but if you are from Pretoria and don’t want to travel to Johannesburg we would still recommend that you participate. If there is enough interest from Pretoria then we can start a Pretoria meeting which runs in addition to the Johannesburg meeting.

Click here to participate in the survey. The survey is open from now until Friday, 25 September 2009. I will compile the results and notify all respondents of the results right here.


Update

The report on the survey results is available here: Gauteng SITP Survey Sep 2009.

Carnival #8: It’s back with a bang

•30 June 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Carnival of the Africans has had its eighth edition published this week at Simon’s Amanuensis. It is a stellar edition.

It’s really tough to pick the highlights, each submission is really worth reading. But maybe start with these before you go and read the rest of them.

  • The Skeptic Blacksheep has been musing on the ways the world will end (don’t forget to party like its 2012 … nah, doesn’t have the same ring to it).
  • George Claasen reminds us that the public was taken by a charlatan. We should keep the right critical attention on Danie Krugel so that this long drawn-out saga will one day come to an end.
  • Bullshit Fatigue has written my new go-to article for explaining to people what Nutura and other homoeopathic remedy companies are actually claiming they can do. I hear about Rescue Remedy from family members and friends of friends surprisingly often and next time I’ll be nudging them in the direction of that article.
  • Two posts on the quantum-god-of-the-gaps? What a treat! Subtle Shift in Emphasis has a thoroughly excellent post which shuts down every avenue of quantum special pleading and Rupert over at Orion Spur reviews the book Quantum Gods which will definitely be the next book I buy – right after I do something about this backlog. :P
  • And I agree with Simon, it really is worth mentioning Owen’s post; Is Science Religion? not only for the great post he wrote because of the interesting discussion it has spawned. Oh, and way to spoil the ending there Owen, couldn’t you wait until maybe the second paragraph before you gave us the answer? ;)

Arrgghh, if I don’t stop now I’ll rewrite the entire carnival on my blog! It’d be a better idea if you go and read the rest of the Carnival.

A Quick Blogroll Announcement

•22 June 2009 • 1 Comment

Joy-Mari has joined our African Science and Scepticism blogroll. Her blog Digital Immigrant is well worth following. Enjoy.

Alternative Treatments to Receive Greater Scrutiny

•8 June 2009 • 3 Comments

… but will it be enough?

A new article by Marilynn Marchione, distributed by the Associated Press, paradoxically entitled Boost for alternative medicine once again highlights the alarming increase in acceptance of alternative treatments by medical aid organisations and even hospitals. It may be a question of the hospitals providing the service because of the increased number of requests from their patients or part of a plan to increase revenues. This dispite there being any good evidence for the efficacy of alternative treatments when compared to existing science-based treatments.

If I had a medical aid which announced that I was allowed to claim for accupuncture, that would appear to be an endorsement of the treatment. Patients trust their medical aid companies becuase they are “in the business”, if they say I can claim, it must be a valid treatment. It would be misguiding to the medical aid user, and yet it is exactly what has been happening.

Continue reading ‘Alternative Treatments to Receive Greater Scrutiny’

African Science and Scepticism Blogroll update

•6 June 2009 • 1 Comment

It has been a long time since I updated the blogroll, but here it is. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the **new** blogs.

Full Blogroll

Title-only Blogroll

Sceptical of Satanism Scares

•19 April 2009 • 1 Comment

Soon I will be blogging about the “Believe It or Not” show which I took part in earlier this evening and presenting the arguments that I made. But in the mean time, if there are any visitors who would like to comment on the show, feel free to do so below. I am interested to see what many of the 702 listeners who were not able to call in felt about the show.

I will respond to as many comments as I am able to when I am able to, but if you would like a more immediate response, go to the discussion about this topic at the South African Skeptics Forum.

 
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