Mega Millions: Winning unlikely, but death by bacteria? Possible

The allure of getting fabulously rich as suddenly as being hit by lightning is a time-honored fantasy. Sadly, the chance of getting killed by that lightning is far more likely than getting rich by winning the world’s largest lottery.

As of Friday morning, the jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery had hit a record $640 million, sending players in 42 states and the District of Columbia to beat a hasty path to the nearest kiosk, sundry outlet or grocery store to plunk down a buck – or many – to purchase a lottery ticket – or many.

The sad truth, however, is that you’re far more likely to die in a traffic accident en route to buying the ticket than you are of winning the big prize. In fact, almost anything else in the universe is far more likely than claiming that lottery prize.


How unlikely is it?

The chance of winning is about one in 176 million, according to the Mega Millions website. Such a staggering number is simply incomprehensible to anyone but a character on the “Big Bang Theory,” a television comedy about geeks in love, set in a Pasadena university specializing in science.

PHOTOS: Mega Millions fever

Among the things more likely than winning the current jackpot is being hit by lightning or a car or even an asteroid. Yes, the odds of something falling from heaven on your head is at least hundreds of thousands of times more likely than winning the big prize.

So is the likelihood of being eaten.

The odds of dying from flesh-devouring bacteria is roughly just 1 in a million, according to -- far more likely than the 1-in-176 million chance of winning the jackpot. Death from a bee sting or a snake bite is also more likely than winning. (For the curious, the odds of dying from a reptile or insect is about 10 times greater than from a bacteria chomp.)

Then there’s crime. Becoming a victim of a crime -- or being jailed for committing a crime -- is more likely than winning the lottery. And when it comes to sports, pick your favorite. Hole-in-one? Game-winning goal? All are far more likely than the chance of winning the big one.

It may be fun for some to play with the numbers, but the bottom line is that they are pointless – because someone will win the lottery at some point (or, more likely, several someones, either individually or in a group that will buy what becomes the winning ticket.)

And it is that possibility that far overshadows the reality of winning. You can bet on it.


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