How much evidence would you need before buying into a get rich quick scheme? Do high ice cream sales cause shark attacks? And just how likely was it that you were ever born? Andrew Stickland finds out that, when it comes to probability, our instincts can lead us seriously astray.
In the early days of the UK National Lottery, it was quite common to see newspaper articles that looked back on what numbers had recently been drawn, and attempted to identify certain numbers as "due" or "hot". Few such articles appear now, and John Haigh thinks that perhaps the publicity surrounding the lottery has enhanced the nation's numeracy.
You might think that if you collected together a list of naturally-occurring numbers, then as many of them would start with a 1 as with any other digit, but you'd be quite wrong. Jon Walthoe explains why Benford's Law says otherwise, and why tax inspectors are taking an interest.