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Roulette is a casino game with a spinning wheel, colored numbers, and a ball. Your objective as a player is to guess where the ball will land. Since motion is involved, and Isaac Newton developed the Law of Motion, can Physics and physicians win at the game?
In roulette, the croupier spins a wheel in one direction while the ball travels the opposite way. Bettors will place their bets on various numbers, the red or black colors, or odd or even numbers.
Such question intrigued a late 70s graduate student named Doyne Farmer. They built a computer with his colleagues to analyze and predict where the ball would land.
Farmer and his team sent two people with computers on their bodies to the casino. One had it underneath his shoes, and his objective was to input data by pushing switches using his toes.
The second accomplice was tasked to change the wheel’s settings before a game, such as the speed at which the ball and wheel slowed down and the ball’s fall velocity. He also had to assess if the wheel was tampered with while playing roulette.
While on live rounds, the one with a computer on his toes will help determine the wheel’s and the ball’s speed. This was done by tapping the toe switches whenever the ball or the wheel passed a certain point (in their case, the double zero).
After all the calculations are done, he predicts where the ball will finally land before transmitting to the accomplice player the result. They were able to communicate through weak radio signals received by another computer. The equipment was strapped on the player’s stomach, which would vibrate in a coded way.
Unfortunately, all their efforts were for naught. When they tested their experiment in the lab, they got a 40% advantage over other players. But upon playing inside the casinos, they failed to render similar results.
It was because of technical problems brought upon by the computers, not water or sweat resistant. The sweat from the individuals wearing the equipment causes short circuits, with wires becoming loose. It also resulted in the loss of radio connections.
As researchers, one failure is not enough for them to call it quits. They tried again, this time with the help of 20 people.
Two improved computer systems were built and put inside custom-built shoes. Having the equipment inside dedicated apparel prevents the operators from getting electrocuted. It also became more challenging for casinos to spot the computers.
The computers were also set in resin blocks. They were hidden except for the solenoids that now beat against the feet and the toe-operated switches. This was another innovation. This was done to address issues like loose wires and perspiration.
Now prepared and equipped better, Farmer and his team entered Binion’s casino in Las Vegas. After conducting the necessary procedures before placing the bet, their computer predicted that the ball would land in the third octant—1, 13, 24, and 36.
Without technical problems, the computer’s prediction was correct. The ball landed in 13, and the researchers won 35-1.
However, one of the computer’s solenoids began acting randomly. Thus predictions from the other equipment were not being transmitted. Apparently, they did not calculate the electronic noise inside the casino, which disrupted their systems.
In the end, Farmer and his group abandoned the project, but the fact remains that physicians can beat the game with the help of some technology, of course.
Can it Work Today?
Due to the evolution of technology, building a sweat and electronic noise-resistant computer is possible. However, new challenges also block the way of those wanting to attempt this.
For instance, if you play in a brick-and-mortar casino, it is prohibited for anyone to video-record the games. If you are spotted recording the games, you will be asked to leave or get banned.
Also, the rise of online casinos like OKBET has rendered this experiment useless unless you are a world-class hacker who can hack into the website’s system, plant a virus, and help you predict the outcome.