Odds of 51 random events happening to you
Millions of Americans buy lottery tickets each year, even though most people know their chances of winning are slim at best. Why do they bother, when taking home the grand prize is less likely than dying in a plane crash or being struck by lightning? It’s probably because humans are not particularly skilled at understanding probability—according to a 2016 University of Toronto study—especially when it comes to guessing the odds of things that could happen in their lives. This is partially caused by “optimism bias,” the belief that good things are more likely to happen to than bad things.
It makes sense: Everyone wants to avoid the negative and instead hit the $20 million jackpot. Stacker has gone for a deep dive through government statistics, scientific facts, and more to find the odds of those unique—or not so unique—circumstances, to see just how likely they actually are.
Click through to the following statistics to find out why you shouldn’t count on a due date for your next baby—and why you should be more worried about dying on your birthday than living to 100 years old.
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Getting struck by lightning
The odds of being struck by lightning are much higher than you may think. The phenomenon is actually one of the highest causes of weather-related human death. In any given year, the probability of getting struck is 1 in 700,000, according to National Geographic. But over the course of an entire life, odds improve considerably to 1 in 3,000.
Winning an Olympic medal
At the 2018 Winter Olympics, there were only 487 medals for 2,952 athletes—meaning just enough for 16.5% of competitors. As it turned out, 93 athletes at those games accounted for 208 medals—bringing the percentage of Olympic athletes to take home medals down to just 12.6%. Meanwhile, a decreasing number of summer Olympic events has made winning medals even harder than it used to be.
Being killed in a plane crash
Take a deep breath and board that plane with confidence: Your chances of being killed in an airplane crash are only 1 in 60 million, according to author Ben Sherwood ("The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life"). Even if your plane does crash, Sherwood points out that 95.7% of passengers in a crash survive.
You’re setting up a nursery and buying a crib, but should you build it for two? Only 33 in 1,000 U.S. births in 2017 were twins. You might have heard that twins run in families, but it is a bit more more complicated than that. Though there is a gene that makes women more likely to have fraternal twins, men who inherit it are no more likely to have twins in the family and it doesn’t increase the chance of having identical twins. Two things that actually can increase those odds are using fertility treatments and being an older mother.
Dying in a tornado
It all depends on where you are and what precautions you take, but in 2011, The New York Times reported the risk of getting killed by a tornado at 1 in 5 million. That can go up to as much as 50 in 5 million if you are in a mobile home. In an average year, 69 people in the U.S. will be killed in tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. Even with such remote chances, it’s still prudent to take cover when the sirens sound.
Winning the lottery
If you’re hoping to win the lottery, you’re either very lucky or bad at math. The odds always depend on how many people play, of course. In October 2018, the odds of winning the record-breaking $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot was a measly 1 in 88 quadrillion. The odds of winning one of the smaller prizes was 1 in 302 million while the $345 million Powerball stood at 1 in 292 million. The reason for the huge prize and slim odds was a 2017 rule change.
Being saved by CPR
A variety of studies have shown that less than 20% of people who receive CPR recover from their heart-stopping experience. Still, the American Heart Association says CPR can double or triple your chances of surviving a cardiac arrest. Why do people think CPR saves most people who receive it? Multiple studies have found that this could be from spending too much time watching medical TV shows, like "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy."
Getting hit by a meteorite
Meteorites may be at the heart of many science fiction and disaster films; but when it comes down to real science, Earth is a big planet covered by large, uninhabited areas. When you consider the empty versus occupied planetary surface area, the odds of getting hit by a meteorite stand at about 1 in 3,000, says NASA.
Finding a four-leaf clover
This genetic plant quirk brings the luck of the Irish to just 1 in every 10,000 clovers, says Dr. John Frett, professor of plant and soil sciences at University of Delaware. That doesn’t mean you won’t find one, though: In 2014, a woman in Australia found 21 four-leaf clovers in her front yard.
Getting audited by the IRS
Paying taxes is stressful enough without worrying about getting audited. Of the millions of returns filed for the 2016 fiscal year, the Internal Revenue Service only audited 0.5% of them. People who file incomes of $0 or more than $10 million are more likely to get that call from the IRS.2018 All rights reserved.