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UK National Lottery: now 21% more balls (rounded up)

This week, it was announced that from October the UK’s National Lottery, currently operated by Camelot and already providing a veritable Merlin’s cave of probability lessons for maths teachers, will be changing the rules for its main ‘Lotto’ draw. The main changes are that a new £1m prize will be added to the raffle element you didn’t know already happens, and that matching two balls will win a free ‘lucky dip’ ticket in the subsequent draw. The fixed £25 prize for matching three balls remains on the round table (even though it sometimes causes hilarious number gaffes).

But the Sword of Damocles hanging over Camelot’s changes is that there will be an extra ten balls to choose six from (59 instead of 49), dramatically lengthening the odds of winning all of the pre-existing prizes. This is our round-up of the media’s coverage of this mathematical “news”.

π and constrained writing

It’s a tool; a ratio, providing us simple rules for doing circular estimates. Admired regularly – and we all remember that today’s pi! Hooray! Let’s eat pie.

You may have noticed that the first paragraph of this article was immensely poorly written, and didn’t sound like good writing at all. And you’d be right – except writing it wasn’t easy as you’d think. I’ve written it under a constraint – that is, I’ve picked an arbitrary rule to follow, and have had to choose my words carefully in order to do so.

π and the Mysterious Excel Function

Users of Microsoft’s flagship 2D-array-based data-organisation tool Excel will be aware of some if its more recondite functions. From the occasionally useful

RIGHT: returns the substring of a given length from the right-hand end of a cell’s contents

to the wilfully obscure

TBILLPRICE: gives “the price per $100 face value for a Treasury bill” when supplied with its settlement date, maturity date and discount rate

to the downright cryptic

N: obviously, converts its argument to a numeric format if it can

along with approximately 340 others, Excel’s abilities are near limitless.

But one function seems singular in the sheer decadence of its inclusion.

How Ultimate is Ultimate π day?

This year, π day will be celebrated, as always, on 14th March. Unlike most years, π day will be more accurate than usual – owing to the fact that the year, 2015, will give the date 3/14/15 (provided you’re using a US calendar date format) – and for this reason, some people are calling it Ultimate π day. But how truly Ultimate is it?

How I Wish I Could Celebrate Pi

People with an interest in date coincidences are probably already getting themselves slightly over-excited about the fact that this month will include what can only be described as Ultimate π Day. That is, on 14th March 2015, written under certain circumstances by some people as 3/14/15, we’ll be celebrating the closest that the date can conceivably get to the exact value of π (in that format).

Of course, sensible people would take this as an excuse to have a party, so here’s my top $\tau$ recommendations for having a π party on π day.

From the Mailbag: Golfing Combinatorics

Sam’s dad is in a mathematical conundrum – so she’s asked Katie, one of our editors, if maths can save the day.

From the Sartorial Arts Journal, New York, 1901Dear The Aperiodical,

My dad is going away on a golfing holiday with seven of his friends and, since I know a little bit about mathematics, he’s asked me to help him work out the best way to arrange the teams for the week. I’ve tried to work out a solution, but can’t seem to find one that fits.

They’ll be playing 5 games during the week, on 5 different days, and they’d like to split the group of 8 people into two teams of four each day. The problem is, they’d each like to play with each of their friends roughly the same amount – so each golfer should be on the same team as each other golfer at least twice, but no more than three times.

Can you help me figure it out?

Sam Coates, Manchester