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Seeing Stars, Voodoo Hit Man, Lottery Odds

Matthew Alice: Why do people see bright lights and funny things when they hit their head? — Wesley, Fourth Grade

Hi, Wesley. Matthew Alice’s friends just get younger and younger. Anyway, when we “see stars,” as some people call it, our brains are just getting confusing messages. Usually we look out through our eyes, and the light around us hits our eyeballs, the eye nerves are stimulated, and they zap to our brains a picture of what we’re looking at. But sometimes, if we bump our heads or otherwise get our eyeballs rattling, the same nerves are stimulated, send a message to the brain, and the brain creates black dots or flashing lights or some other random “picture” for us.

So “seeing stars” is just our brains filling in an information gap with sparkly lights. Most of the time, this is pretty harmless or is associated with migraine headaches (very bad headaches you probably don’t get). You’re more at risk from the head bump than the “stars.” But if the situation isn’t temporary, then you’d better get your eyes to a doctor. There are some brain and eye conditions other than a bump that can cause it, especially in older people. Something to look forward to, Wesley.

Dear Matthew Alice: I remember hearing on the news once that in one of those Southern states some men had been charged with attempted murder for hiring a hit man to kill a judge. The hit man was a voodoo practitioner who was supposed to kill the judge by sticking pins into a doll or whatever it is that voodooists do. I never heard anything further about this case. I had looked forward to extensive media coverage. Can you find out what happened in this case? — CC, Vista

Another great moment in litigation. It all started when a Mississippi circuit court judge sentenced John Ivy to 40 years in the state pen at Parchman for robbery. That gave John plenty of time to devise the perfect revenge. John’s brother Leroy happened to know the judge’s housekeeper, so they set up a three-way phone call with the lady and asked her to get a picture of her boss and a lock of his hair. The Ivys’ plan was to send these to a voodoo practitioner in New Orleans, who would then use the articles to put a curse on the judge. To no one’s surprise (except the Ivys, apparently), the housekeeper alerted the judge, then set up a rendezvous with Leroy, handed over the goods, and the Tupelo police snapped the cuffs on him. Both brothers were charged with conspiracy to murder.

Leroy’s attorney claimed it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to prosecute someone for soliciting a death by voodoo. The DA countered by saying the Ivys’ plan was no different from hiring a hit man who couldn’t shoot straight; it’s not the efficacy of the method, it’s the intent of the plotters that matters in conspiracy. The law was on the side of the state. According to Leroy’s Tupelo attorney, the brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy one day before the trial began. In exchange, Leroy’s sentence was suspended and he received probation. John’s bright idea will cost him a few more years in Parchman.

Hi Matt: I’m pretty well convinced that if I work at it long enough, I can solve all my money worries with Lotto or Power Ball. One of the things I do is play the following numbers every week. Please don’t publish these numbers because I don’t want anyone else to know them. I have a good friend, though, who says the whole thing is a waste of time and it’s especially stupid to play a sequence of numbers because of the odds against them being drawn that way. I say he’s wrong. So, who’s right? — Future Billionaire

Hahahahahahahahahahah! What a brain trust I’m dealing with here. I think you two had better hook up with Wesley, who at least knows that the bright flashing lights in front of him aren’t real. Jeez! With a state full of idiots like you, I don’t see how Lotto hasn’t paid for private-school education for every child through the year 3000. I won’t try to talk you out of your Power Ball fantasy. I would suggest you figure out how to enroll in a community college and take a Probability for Dummies class, but filling out the application might be more than you can handle and, anyway, would interfere with your ticket-buying routine. Since, for whatever reason, you seem to see me as a source of wisdom (while ignoring all your past real-life experiences, obviously), I will tell you what you’ve undoubtedly heard from others: every string of numbers has an equal chance of being chosen every week, sequenced or not. Now I’ll turn on you and reveal your “winning” sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Don’t hate me. According to Lotto experts, this is a lousy bet not because it has no chance of being chosen but because so many people play it every week that even if you do win, you’ll have to share the prize with many, many others. Good luck in life, my friend.

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Matthew Alice: Why do people see bright lights and funny things when they hit their head? — Wesley, Fourth Grade

Hi, Wesley. Matthew Alice’s friends just get younger and younger. Anyway, when we “see stars,” as some people call it, our brains are just getting confusing messages. Usually we look out through our eyes, and the light around us hits our eyeballs, the eye nerves are stimulated, and they zap to our brains a picture of what we’re looking at. But sometimes, if we bump our heads or otherwise get our eyeballs rattling, the same nerves are stimulated, send a message to the brain, and the brain creates black dots or flashing lights or some other random “picture” for us.

So “seeing stars” is just our brains filling in an information gap with sparkly lights. Most of the time, this is pretty harmless or is associated with migraine headaches (very bad headaches you probably don’t get). You’re more at risk from the head bump than the “stars.” But if the situation isn’t temporary, then you’d better get your eyes to a doctor. There are some brain and eye conditions other than a bump that can cause it, especially in older people. Something to look forward to, Wesley.

Dear Matthew Alice: I remember hearing on the news once that in one of those Southern states some men had been charged with attempted murder for hiring a hit man to kill a judge. The hit man was a voodoo practitioner who was supposed to kill the judge by sticking pins into a doll or whatever it is that voodooists do. I never heard anything further about this case. I had looked forward to extensive media coverage. Can you find out what happened in this case? — CC, Vista

Another great moment in litigation. It all started when a Mississippi circuit court judge sentenced John Ivy to 40 years in the state pen at Parchman for robbery. That gave John plenty of time to devise the perfect revenge. John’s brother Leroy happened to know the judge’s housekeeper, so they set up a three-way phone call with the lady and asked her to get a picture of her boss and a lock of his hair. The Ivys’ plan was to send these to a voodoo practitioner in New Orleans, who would then use the articles to put a curse on the judge. To no one’s surprise (except the Ivys, apparently), the housekeeper alerted the judge, then set up a rendezvous with Leroy, handed over the goods, and the Tupelo police snapped the cuffs on him. Both brothers were charged with conspiracy to murder.

Leroy’s attorney claimed it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to prosecute someone for soliciting a death by voodoo. The DA countered by saying the Ivys’ plan was no different from hiring a hit man who couldn’t shoot straight; it’s not the efficacy of the method, it’s the intent of the plotters that matters in conspiracy. The law was on the side of the state. According to Leroy’s Tupelo attorney, the brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy one day before the trial began. In exchange, Leroy’s sentence was suspended and he received probation. John’s bright idea will cost him a few more years in Parchman.

Hi Matt: I’m pretty well convinced that if I work at it long enough, I can solve all my money worries with Lotto or Power Ball. One of the things I do is play the following numbers every week. Please don’t publish these numbers because I don’t want anyone else to know them. I have a good friend, though, who says the whole thing is a waste of time and it’s especially stupid to play a sequence of numbers because of the odds against them being drawn that way. I say he’s wrong. So, who’s right? — Future Billionaire

Hahahahahahahahahahah! What a brain trust I’m dealing with here. I think you two had better hook up with Wesley, who at least knows that the bright flashing lights in front of him aren’t real. Jeez! With a state full of idiots like you, I don’t see how Lotto hasn’t paid for private-school education for every child through the year 3000. I won’t try to talk you out of your Power Ball fantasy. I would suggest you figure out how to enroll in a community college and take a Probability for Dummies class, but filling out the application might be more than you can handle and, anyway, would interfere with your ticket-buying routine. Since, for whatever reason, you seem to see me as a source of wisdom (while ignoring all your past real-life experiences, obviously), I will tell you what you’ve undoubtedly heard from others: every string of numbers has an equal chance of being chosen every week, sequenced or not. Now I’ll turn on you and reveal your “winning” sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Don’t hate me. According to Lotto experts, this is a lousy bet not because it has no chance of being chosen but because so many people play it every week that even if you do win, you’ll have to share the prize with many, many others. Good luck in life, my friend.

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Comments
1

Matt, you don't seem to think that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The future billionaire's question was not about how commonly his numbers are chosen, but whether they have the same chance to be drawn as any other sequence. I do want to let out a laugh too, like you did.. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA!!! I thought it was funny that you had asked him to not be mad that you revealed those numbers, even though many of us had already figured what they were, right after you implied he was an idiot and his friends were even bigger morons.. LOL! OK, I'm done. Carry on.

July 9, 2011

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