Odds are that readers will be intrigued by this column

I’m telling you, I am extremely lucky. I just read that the odds of dating a supermodel are 88,000 to 1. Heck, I’m married to one! I assume that I am married to such a good-looking person because I am so brilliant and charming. Either that or she is extremely kind to dumb animals. 

The problem may have been that, when I asked her to marry me, she had been taught that, “If she couldn’t say anything nice, to not say anything at all.” I took her silence for consent. Better grow a mean streak baby! Or it may have been that she thought she was dating a millionaire. The odds of that are 215 to 1. Hey, you place your bets, and sometimes you lose. 

But this column really isn’t about the oddity of why my wife married me. It’s about the oddities that surround “the odds.” No, not the odds that she would marry me, just the odds in general. In general, the odds are very odd.

Odds are a numerical expression that reflect the likelihood that an event will take place. They are usually expressed in two numbers, like a fraction, and are based upon statistical likelihoods. However, sometimes people express the odds that something won’t happen. That’s when things get odd. I’ll try to explain.

The odds of rolling a six with a six-sided die are 1 in five, sometimes shown as 1/5 or 1:5. This is because, if one rolls the die many times and keeps track of how many of each number they roll, we would expect to see one six for every time we roll the die, and it does not show six. If we rolled the die 600 times, we would expect to roll 100 sixes. However, the odds against rolling a six are 5 to 1, the opposite of 1:5. 

The odds are 2 to 1 that you understood any of that, but that’s all right because I didn’t either. Wait, is it 2 to 1 that you didn’t understand any of that? Actually, the odds of me writing anything understandable about math are extremely low. Or wait, should that be low? 

If you put five pink marbles, five blue marbles, and one purple marble in a paper sack, the odds for blindly picking a purple marble from the bag are 1:11. That’s because there is only one chance to pick a purple marble out of eleven marbles. On the other hand, paper sacks are not safe places to keep all your marbles. You could lose them. 

I’m not exactly sure why one would want to mix up their marbles in that manner. Apparently, some people really like to do it though. Examples like these are found all over the internet and in statistics books. I wonder what the odds are that one will develop a marble fetish. 

I don’t know how they figure odds on some things. For example, they say that the odds of being killed by a dog are 1 in 700,000. How many people have been killed by dogs for Pete’s sake? Wouldn’t they have to have some historical information to base this on? Why are we allowing this to continue? 

The odds of being killed by lightning are 1 in 2 million.  However, the odds of being struck by lightning, but not killed, are 1 in 576,000. It gets worse because, contrary to popular belief, lightning can strike the same place twice. So, the longer you live, the greater your chance of being struck by lightning. The odds of being struck by lightning by the time you are 80 is 1 in 3000. Now I am not 80, but I am old enough to wonder exactly what I should do with that information. 

Bob Dylan’s odds of winning the Nobel Prize for Literature were 50:1. I told my wife that I figured that gave me a chance. She just laughed. 

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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