Too many coincidences for one news headline

Simultaneous, identical lotto picks from Henan and Heilongjiang

In April, two lottery players won big prizes for identical lottery picks bought at precisely the same second from lottery machines located in Henan and Heilongjiang.

Harbin's Modern Evening Times (新晚报) reported on the coincidence in its June 5 issue.

The blog Untrustworthy News reposted the report under the title "Out of Context," and drew particular attention to the article's subtitle:

Identical winning numbers bought at the same second by two different players

Interestingly, the two big winners also had the same height, weight, and blood type
by Zhang Feifei / MET

Yesterday morning (2009.06.04), Mr. Gao, a long-time lottery player in the city, reported that in the Sports Lottery's 47th Seven Star drawing of the year (held on April 26), "twin prizes" were found in Henan and Heilongjiang. Separated by thousands of kilometers, two lottery players picked the identical number at the same second, and each won a 5 million yuan grand prize. Gao said, "Identical tickets purchased at the same second from two different machines located thousands of kilometers apart. What a coincidence!"

Using the official website to check the results for the 47th Seven Star drawing, this reporter found that a player in Henan bought a ticket for the number "3511587" at 10:17:12 on April 26, and at the very same second, Zhao Qiang (pseudonym) of Hailun, in the city of Suihua, Heilongjiang Province, picked "3511587" as well.

He Chunyang, assistant professor of mathematics at Heilongjiang University, told the paper, "Suppose you pick a two-digit number using the digits 1 to 9. That makes 81 combinations. If you have two seven-digit numbers with an identical sequence, the probability is 1/282429536481 (one in 81*81*81*81*81*81), or roughly one in 282 billion. And when you factor in the two players thousands of kilometers apart who bought tickets at precisely the same second, the probability approaches zero."

Other lottery players joked, "This is like, at the exact same moment, two identically-sized meteors hitting two people in Henan and Helongjiang, who coincidentally have the same height, weight, and blood type."

Yesterday afternoon, this reporter called up the Heilongjiang Sports Lottery Center, where a worker passed on an answer given by the National Sports Lottery Center: more than ten million picks are sold for each sports lottery drawing, and at the peak sales time every day, more than one hundred transactions take place every second, so it is entirely possible for two identical numbers to be picked at the same time.

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There are currently 8 Comments for Too many coincidences for one news headline .

Comments on Too many coincidences for one news headline

"so it is entirely possible for two identical numbers to be picked at the same time."

No it 'aint'

Oh please let this be followed up, finally some only quasi-horrific coverup. So intriguing, like a sherlock holmes mystery.

Or is it just trying to sell more lottery tickets by inventing winners.

I hope not, how unromantic.

No defender of the China Sports Lottery, which looks too much like New Jersey OTB for me to feel like it's on the up-and-up, and no defender of the 'weird news' page -- but computers can't actually generate random numbers, and one common way to make near-random numbers would be to take the precise time at sale and perform some kind of complicated operation on it -- this would actually lead to tickets bought at the same time having the exact same number. Why they'd both win in different provinces I don't know -- maybe they all share one prize number drawing.

And then the newspaper just made up the blood type stuff and jammed it onto 8B with the transparent turtles and eight-armed babies.

I never won once, pity.


Not to nitpick, but computers *can* generate true random numbers. Search "/dev/random" for that ;)

Interesting. Yeah, given their distance apart the odds are probably greater than all the atoms in the universe. However, you know it's software so who knows WTF beasts is lurking there. So maybe they are just generating bad sequences, reducing all the crap down (I've no idea what I'm talking about. So maybe if we assume that they are using uber-crap random numbers then go from there, we can figure out WTF is going on?). Maybe it is complete unrelated and just require some QA dude kicking down doors and waving fo fos? Who da F knows? It's one of those gotchas.

It was always 'possible', just never probable.

Did anyone check that it wasn't the same guy and a corrupt database table?

I'm reading it 2nd time cuz I skimed it the first time. So maybe it is a "corrupted" data record? But they did check and confirm that these are two different persons, it seems like.

Taking into account that a lot of transactions gets processed (well, 100 transactions per sec. is not that much, but depending sort of transactions) so you definitely need good random sequences. Without good random sequences, you will repeat, add that on top to all the transactions. I'm guessing. One needs to work out all teh details to be sure.

But I'm pretty sure if they have really good random sequences then they wouldn't have this problem. Am I right?

WIth that said, yes, nothing is impossible, by definition. It CAN happen, even if the odds are greater than all the atoms in the universe.

I'll venture a guess you guys are not programmers.

There's an entirely plausable explination if you know how compputer generate random numbers. The "random" number computers generate are never random. It's only as random as the seed/key used to initiate the ramdomizer function.

The fact the two tickets had the same time is a huge clue - timestamp or seconds in date/hour is often used as the seed for calculating random numbers. If the same seed is used, you'll get the identical random number.

Case closed.

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