A guest editorial from Christina Kahrl detailing the problems with this piece as they relate to transgender issues can be found here. Strange stories can find you at strange times.
The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why. But when scheduling conflicts caused the hotel arrangements to fall through just a few months before, the conference's organizers were left scrambling to find an alternative destination that could accommodate the crowd—and ended up settling on Las Vegas's MGM grand.
Clocking in at 5, rooms, the Grand is the largest standalone hotel in the US—making it a convenient landing place for such a big and unexpectedly uprooted conference. It's worth noting that the Grand didn't exist in its current form until the early '90s, but the MGM Marina—which stood in the same place—was colloquially known as the Grand.
Casino Archives It was an unmitigated disaster for the Grand. Everyone knows that it's a near-impossibility to beat a casino's odds on a large scale.
Lucky individuals' wins are always subsidized by the unlucky masses, and everyone's luck runs out eventually.
Did a group of the April '86 attendees somehow devise an optimized betting strategy, analyzing risks and payoffs, assigning weights, hedging their bets to come out in the black? Still no—or at least not en masse. Instead, it turns out that the physicists found the one move guaranteed to provide an edge when the odds are stacked against you: See, usually when an organization announces that it's holding a big conference in a certain region, it triggers a bidding war among that area's hotels, and each tries to undersell the others and secure the group's contract to fill up as many rooms as possible.
This goes double in a gambling destination like Las Vegas, where hotels have casinos built-in; the Grand doesn't just collect on room charges, it also gets a good portion of however much each guest was planning on taking to the tables.
This is so central to the business model of casino hotels that they'll often give rates much lower than what a non-casino hotel could afford to offer, under the assumption that they'll recoup at the tables—it's the same reason you can often find free alcohol and startlingly nice food at all-you-can-eat casino buffets.
So were these physicists just too busy sharing their science, seeing presentations and posters, and catching up on homework to find time for the tables?
The fact that a significant portion of the attendees were broke graduate students probably didn't help matters. When a roulette wheel comes up black ten times in a row, it doesn't make the ball any more or less likely to land in a red slot the next time.
Whatever the case may have been, the week of the '86 APS April meeting found the gaming floor almost completely empty, leaving the casino with its record-low take; in the probably apocryphal words of one casino waitress: The MGM Grand learned a lesson the hard way that week: Physicists do not play dice.
Back in the early s, a roulette wheel landed on black 26 times in a row, the odds of which are something like one in 67 million. With each successive spin, people bet larger and larger sums on the assumption that it HAD to come up red, some losing millions in the process.THE GREAT IDEAS ONLINE July № WHY SPECULATE?
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