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Column: Alien theory will likely crap out
07122018 NATE McCULLOUGH

I have been told by more than one casino craps dealer that I’m the luckiest dice shooter they’ve ever seen.

So why have I not gone to Vegas or Biloxi and turned a few paychecks into a retirement windfall?

For one thing, to win really big you have to bet really big, and I don’t have that kind of scratch. For another, there isn’t a gambler in the universe who isn’t a little superstitious, and I just know the day I set out to turn the Beau Rivage into my personal 401K is the day my luck would run out.

Silly superstitions aside though, luck has nothing to do with it.

I win a little more often than some people because I know how to bet the odds.

A craps table can be intimidating. All that yelling and high-fiving, a layout covered with mystifying numbers and words, guys yelling weird lingo while a very serious looking character watches the casino’s money like a hawk -- there are reasons a lot of folks opt for the slot machines.

But here’s something many of those folks don’t know: Craps is the only game in which the house edge can be reduced to almost zero. 

Every other game has a statistical house advantage. It is a mathematical certainty that most players will lose. And even with craps, if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll still lose your shirt because most dice bets are geared toward the house as well.

But a small portion of the real estate on a dice table, when bet properly, allows you to face the house on an almost level playing field. It’s the closest thing to a fair game in a casino.

You stick with the odds, and assuming you’re on one of those tables with everyone cheering, you incrementally add to your stack.

But boy, that just sounds like a boring way to play doesn’t it? Where’s the rush in getting seven dollars back for every six I bet? That feels like earning right, not winning?

Of course. It’s a risk/reward thing. Low risk equals low reward. High risk equals high reward -- but usually a lot of losing.

Every now and then though those big-return, hard-way bets hit, and the adrenaline flows more freely. So when I’m up, I occasionally put a few bucks on those hardways. They do call it gambling after all.

What’s all this have to do with the aliens mentioned in the headline?

Well, I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately. Over the past several years, numerous national media outlets, including the New York Times and “60 Minutes,” have done reports on UFOs. The government has, on more than one occasion, “confirmed” that there are objects flying around our airspace that do things that seemingly violate the laws of physics and moreover, the government says it doesn’t know who is flying them. A report to Congress slated for this month is said to include information about these objects that, in the words of one official, will be “hard to explain.”

Now, I love a good UFO story because I love a good story. I’ll listen to podcasts, read books and watch hours of “Ancient Aliens” because I love to ponder the possibilities. But no matter how fascinated I might become by a documentary on little green men, in my heart I always stick with the odds.

The universe is a vast place -- so large, in fact, that it is almost a mathematical certainty that somewhere out there other life forms exist. But that vastness is also precisely why if “they” do exist they’ve almost certainly never been here. From what we know about physics, it’s just too difficult to travel at the speed and cover the distance necessary to visit the Earth from Zeta Reticuli or the Horsehead Nebula.

So the odds are, whatever these objects are, they were made right here on our own little blue marble by average-sized nongreen men. I suspect they’re advanced-technology drones of some sort, and I put the word confirmed in quotation marks earlier because I find it highly likely that whatever the government says is really just misdirection to throw the public off the scent of some classified project.

Equally likely: They belong to one of our adversaries, and our government really doesn’t understand them but needs some money to catch up, and what better way than to get the public worried? Whether those worries are over Chinese surveillance or a real-life “War of the Worlds,” it doesn’t really matter as long as millions of dollars are appropriated.

So I recommend you go with the odds and put your money on these things being piloted by someone in the homo sapiens family.

But…

I believe man is sometimes extraordinarily arrogant when it comes to what he thinks he knows about the universe. So throw a dollar or two on aliens, just in case it does turn out to be 10 light years the hard way. Then you can show off your winnings to your nonbelieving friends in the form of a big “Told you they were real.”

Just don’t bet your whole stack of chips, lest you lose your whole spacesuit.


Nate McCullough is the news editor for The Times. Shannon Casas is on vacation and will return next week.

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