Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW
Marketplace Scratch Pad

What are the odds?

Scott Jagow Oct 14, 2009

Tonight on Marketplace, we’ll be talking to the founder of a new website called the Book of Odds. What are the chances you’ve ever eaten cold pizza? Or that you’re unemployed right now? Or that you’ll run into a journalist? Find out.

Here’s how the website describes its raison d’etre:

For over three years we have been building what we believe is the missing dictionary, one filled not with words, but with numbers – the odds of everyday life. It contains hundreds of thousands of Odds Statements, from the odds of being the only one to survive a plane crash, to the odds of having a heart attack, to the odds of having ever eaten cold pizza for breakfast. Book of Odds not only allows you to search for those odds that concern or interest you the most, but also to understand probability by comparing the odds of unfamiliar events to others you have personally experienced.

You can search by keywords or by key numbers. Let’s say your accountant says you have a 1 in 7,000 chance of being audited. Well, you can be comforted by the fact that there’s about the same chance you’ll have to go to the hospital for an accident involving a pool cue or a billiards ball.

I tooled around on the site and came up with a few more odd-ities:

Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed this year as they were in 2006.

The odds that a person age 16 or over is unemployed:

2006: 1 in 33
2009: 1 in 16

By the way, the site has a couple of job openings, in case you’re the 1 in 16.

The odds a person has health insurance are 1 in 1.18. 85%. Hmmm.

The odds a woman will report always washing her hands after handling money are 1 in 3.33, about the same chances that a man sleeps in his underwear.

It may be a better idea to go swimming with sharks than it is to rock the vending machine in your office:

The odds a person will die from a vending machine accident in a year are 1 in 112,000,000, while the odds that a person will die from a shark attack in a year are 1 in 251,800,000. This means that a person is more than twice as likely to be killed tipping a soda machine than to end up as food for a large toothy fish.

Marketplace host Bob Moon came up with his own mash-up of probabilities:

The odds that a person 16 or older with a job is a journalist: 1 in 2,667. The odds of running into a reporter are about the same as running into a manicurist or a pedicurist!

The website’s founder, Amram Shapiro, mentioned another strange one. What are the odds that a cow will eventually become the football that is used to score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl?

1 in 17.8 million, in case you were wondering.

Shapiro says his website’s odds for success will depend on ad sales and selling products, like t-shirts with one of these odds statements on them.

By the way… cold pizza for breakfast? 1 in 2.56. Only 39%?

You’re missing out, 61%.

Let me know if you come up with your own interesting odds…

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.