Letter: Put your money on the asteroid

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Sir: "I'm no statistician," writes Charles Wroe (letter, 26 February). Nor, it would seem, a very careful reader of Oliver Morton's excellent and thought-provoking article ("So who cares if the sky is falling?", 25 February).

The reason there have been a hundred or so National Lottery jackpot-winners is that the draw has taken place once or twice a week for the past couple of years. Alas, usually only one or two people win each time.

In contrast, a smallish asteroid hits the Earth only about once in 500,000 years, but would kill about a quarter of the global population in one go. Taking the long-term average, the odds of this happening to any one of us in our lifetime are indeed greater than those of winning the lottery.


Department of Earth Sciences

The Open University

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire