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  • When Worlds Collide

     Mel Yorkian updated 3 weeks, 6 days ago 1 Member · 1 Post
  • Mel Yorkian

    Member
    January 30, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    I thought of this problem many years ago but I’ve never been able to come up with a solution, although I feel there ought to be one. Maybe you folks would be interested in giving it a try. It goes like this:

    In the 1951 movie When Worlds Collide (as I remember it), a large team works frantically to build a spaceship to escape the Earth before it’s destroyed. When someone realizes that there are more people building the ship than it can carry, it’s decided that a lottery will be held and the winners announced on launch day. When that day comes and the list of winners is posted, a young man finds his name on the list and runs to tell his girlfriend, but when he finds her she’s crying because, tragically, her name isn’t on the list.

    The puzzle is this: How could a lottery be held that would avoid situations like that? Can you devise a set of lottery rules that would allow couples, or perhaps even larger groups, to specify in advance that either all of the group or none of the group win, while maintaining exactly the same probability of winning for each individual person, including those who choose not to pair up with anyone?

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