Every month, Nautilus publishes essays, investigative stories, and works of fiction about science and chooses a theme. The theme for August is: "The Unlikely," stories about understanding our odds and probabilities. Today, Adam Piore examines the sociology behind why we play the lottery, though if you're looking to figure out whether or not you should play the lottery, see our story in May by Matt Levine.
To decide if you should play the lottery you need to compare the (tiny) chance of winning a giant amount of money, on the one hand, with a dollar, on the other. The simple way to do this is to assume that a one in a million chance of winning a million dollars is "worth" the same as a dollar. But, why?