8 September 2019

Danish mathematician solves lottery puzzle from 1969

MATH in the media

Is there a lottery voucher that will at some point with 100 percent certainty win the very big lottery win? The short answer is no. The newspaper Politiken has interviewed Asger Dag Törnquist from the Department of Mathematical Sciences about the riddle and his research.

Asger Dag Törnquist The full headline from Politiken reads: "Danish mathematician solves lottery puzzle from 1969 - perhaps to the delight of the few". And the interview is about the research on set theory that can be difficult to explain - and which does not solve any societal problems.

The proof of the riddle's solution has Dag found together with colleague David Schrittesser of Austria. Their research has just been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Political journalist Lasse Foghsgaard asks:

- I've read many scientific articles in my journalistic career, but your current article tops the list of those I can't understand a word of. However, I have searched in vain for the word 'lotto', but without success. How can it be?

“My lottery example is my way of making my research understandable to people who do not have mathematics as a speciality. Because if I started to talk about Ramsey theory, Solovay's model and mad families, I wouldn't be able to get through with my message to laypeople. So that's why I ask people to imagine a lottery voucher, which is endless with endless rows of endless numbers. The riddle is then: Can you find a coupon where you can be absolutely sure that at least one of the rows wins. And here the answer is no”.

"If you imagine this infinitely large lottery voucher, where each row on the voucher has infinitely many numbers, then we have found that some order and structure are created that still make the rows behave in a predictable way."

Read more in Politiken, September 9, 2019, 1st section page 6 - and see our own press release: The ever-winning lottery ticket: Mathematicians solve a dusty mystery

Politiken 9/9 2019