Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Do You Believe in Luck?

Do you think you can modify your luckiness?

Is there such a thing as luck?

Many people attribute events in their lives to luck - either good or bad. But, why believe in luck? Perhaps it is real, or perhaps it is simply a case of biased recall - for example, if you think you have bad luck, when something bad happens, you tend to associate it with your luck, but you completely forget about the positive things that happen to you.

There are many things you can do that supposedly influence your luck, either for good or for bad. For example, if you break a mirror, you will be cursed with seven years of bad luck. Conversely, by "knocking on wood" when you make a wish, you are either summoning up the good spirits that reside in the wood, or expelling the evil ones that have invaded the wood (depending on what you believe).

In order to investigate the existence of luck in an objective fasion, i have devised a game that will let you and a group of friends explore the existence (or not) of luck.

What you will need

    1) four or more people

    2) a dice for each person

    3) Salt

    4) a wooden object (any one will do)

    5) a mirror that is expendable

    6) a prize for the winner (a bar of chocolate)

    7) Pen and paper for each person

What to do

1) give each person a dice and a pen and paper.

2) give one person the mirror, one the salt and one the piece of wood.

3) Next,the people involved in the experiment need to prepare their luck.

    a) The person with the mirror should carefully break the mirror.

    b) The person with the salt should pour a ring around where they will be rolling the dice and throw a pinch of salt over their left shoulder.

    c) The person with the wood should say something like: "I want to win the prize, touch wood" and then knock on the wood several times with their knuckles.

    d) the forth person is the "control" - they do not do anything to modify their luck.

4) Then, the four people seperate and roll their dice as many times as they can in the time you have allowed for the experiment, recording the result of each roll. For extra "luck" the person with the wood can knock on it before every roll.

5) At the end of the experiment, determine the winner - the person that rolled the highest proportion of sixes with their dice.

6) To calculate the proportion, have each person count their total number of sixes and their total number of rolls. Dividing number of sixes by the total numbr will give each person a number between zero and one - the person with the highest number wins!

Is there luck involved?

If there is no luck involved in the experiment and you each make a large number of rolls, every person should have the same proportion of sixes (roughly) - anyone could be the winner. On the other hand, if the luck modifying actions have their expected effects, the mirror breaker will get less sixes than average (the average score for fair dice is 1/6) while the people with the salt and the wood should score higher than average.

The control person is important - as they did nothing to affect their luck, their rolls should determine the average that you compare the positive and negative luck players with.

If you have more than four people, you can do several things. You can add extra luck modifications - like walking under a ladder or carrying some sort of lucky charm. Alternately, you can assign several people to each of the luck modifications - more people means you can generate more statistics and have more convincing results.

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