Rarest Things In The Universe
Let's figure out the rarest things in the universe!Knowledge
What’s rarer than finding a 4-leaf clover? Rarer than being struck by lightning? Or even rarer than winning the lottery? They’re such exceptional occurrences that the chances of them happening to you seem slim!
But there are even more impossibly rare events in this world that make those things look common. From finding the rarest element on earth, to spawning the rarest Minecraft mob, let's explore some of the least probable things to happen in the known universe.
Drawing a Card
Let’s start small to establish a scale. Your odds of drawing a heart or any specific suit from a deck of 52 playing cards is 1 in 4. Each suit has 13 cards, giving you a 25% chance of blindly drawing a specific suit.
Being a Left Hander
Moving on, your odds of being left-handed are around 1 in 100. The preference for using the left hand over the right comes from the way the brain is arranged. The left half controls the right side of the body, and vice versa. Most people’s brains use the left hemisphere to determine fine motor control, so the right hand becomes dominant.
Left handedness could be down to a small genetic mutation in our distant past, which is genetically passed down to an increasingly small amount of lefties today.
Identical twins occur when one fertilized egg splits into two fetuses that end up sharing the same genetic information. That means, your odds of being born a twin are around 1 in 250. Inexplicably, the country of Benin boasts a twin birth rate seven times higher than average, at 7 in 250!
We’ve caught them all, but did you know that in the games each Pokémon has a very low chance of being shiny? These different colored Pokémon are generated randomly by the game, but each wild encounter only produces a 1 in 4096 chance of a Pokémon being shiny. In the older games, your odds were even worse at 1 in 8912.
Flipping a Coin
Flipping a coin is not always 50/50. When you flip a coin, it actually has about a 1 in 6000 chance of landing directly on its side, assuming you’re flipping it onto a flat surface and with no wind or coin-meddlers to alter the result. So, in reality, when you flip a coin it’s more like you have a 49.9999% chance of it being heads or tails!
Have you ever gone hunting for a lucky four-leafed clover? They’re almost impossible to spot amid all the 3-leafed ones. So, it’s no surprise that it’s estimated the odds of a clover having four leaves are just 1 in 10,000. The fourth leaf comes from a regressive mutation or environmental damage, with one clover being the leaf of a larger plant!
This next one is why I stick to crazy golf: the odds of your average golfer landing a hole-in-one are just 1 in 12,500. With that in mind, it’s pretty amazing that Tiger Woods has hit 20 holes-in-one across his career. Even though he isn’t exactly your average golfer.
Albinism is a condition that occurs due to a lack of melanin in the body, which is a pigment that adds color to hair and skin. This rare genetic mutation leads albino humans to have pale skin and white-blonde hair. In most of the world, albinism occurs in around 1 in every 18,000 people.
Being Super Tall
Gigantism and acromegaly are conditions that arise if your pituitary gland produces too many growth hormones. People with these conditions can grow to over eight feet tall and are around 3 or 4 in a million. This means your odds of being super-tall are somewhere between 1 in 250,000 and 1 in 333,333.
The tallest individual with this disorder, and not coincidentally the tallest man to ever live, was Robert Wadlow, who grew to an amazing 8 feet 11 inches tall. That means he was half as tall as a giraffe!
Getting a Royal Flush
Returning to cards, in Poker a Royal Flush is the best hand you can get, and consists of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of the same suit. As there are four suits in a deck of cards, this means you have four shots at getting a Royal Flush.
But don’t hold your breath, as your chances of getting the specific cards to make this on the river are just 1 in 649,740. This means that if you were dealt 20 hands of Poker every night, you’d still only expect to see one Royal Flush in 89 years of play. Let’s hope when that does happen, you bet big!
Death By Bears
Being mauled to death by a bear is a fear many people have, but how likely is it really? In the United States, bears kill between 2 and 5 people each year. When you compare that to the number of deaths recorded by the CDC in 2017, that means your odds of being munched by a bear in the US are just 2 to 5 in 2,813,420, or around 1 in 804,000.
That’s rare, so rare that you’re about 60 times more likely to be killed by your toaster! Nice helping of perspective for those of us afraid of bear attacks there.
We know that you have about a 1 in 10,000 chance of finding a four-leaf clover. What about five leaves? They exist, and they’re much rarer than four-leafers. It’s estimated that you only have about a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of finding a clover with five leaves thanks to that previously mentioned recessive mutation. Happy hunting!
Struck By Lightning
It was only a matter of time before we got here: how likely are you to be struck by lightning? According to the National Weather Service, your odds of being struck in a given year, where there’s an average of 1.4 billion strikes around the world, are just 1 in 1,222,000.
Assuming you live to be 80 years old, that means your lifetime odds are 1 in 15,300 or 0.0065%, which is actually a lot higher than I thought.
Despite what most people think, lobsters aren’t naturally red. Most of the time in the wild, they’re more of a muddy brown. When cooked or exposed to heat, their shells become redder most of the time.
In some rare occurrences, lobsters can be born with a mutation that results in some pretty wild pigmentation in their shells. For example, the chances of a lobster being bright blue are about 1 in 2,000,000. But they still taste delicious, which is all that matters!
A Specific Suit of Royal Flush
Back to the cards! While your odds of getting a regular old Royal Flush are a generous 1 in 649,740, things get a lot trickier if you're picky. If you're angling for a royal flush of a specific suit, diamonds, for example, your odds decrease to just 1 in 2,598,960. While this may seem crazy, these are actually your odds of getting dealt any specific Poker hand!
Killed By Sharks
Sharks are even scarier than bears but they’re also less dangerous. Sharks were responsible for the deaths of just 11 people worldwide in 2021. The International Shark Attack File puts your odds of getting bitten by a shark at just 1 in 3,748,067.
To put that into perspective, you’re way more likely to be killed by giraffes, which cause around 190 deaths per year! But even these numbers are dwarfed by the unassuming freshwater snail, which by some estimates claims over 20,000 lives per year. These snails can carry worms which cause schistosomiasis, a very nasty disease and an unpleasant way to go.
Completing The Lucky Draw
Super Mario Maker is a popular Nintendo game where players can create, edit, and share their own levels based on the tried-and-true Mario Brothers platform scroller formula. Not long after release, people were uploading some truly crazy and creative levels but none as daunting as The Lucky Draw, created by user Phenotype.
The level is short and simple but holds a dark secret: it can only be beaten if six magikoopas transform six blocks into coins. Then, all six coins need to move to the right to avoid activating a death-switch. Your odds of beating this course are estimated to be 1 in 7,500,000.
In 2019, after 4.2 million worldwide attempts, a user by the name of Josh finally completed the level legitimately, and a few million tries sooner than expected!
Experiencing a Plane Crash
It’s been reported that around 40% of travelers are afraid of flying in some way, and that’s understandable. If we were meant to fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, we’d have developed wings!
Still, the odds of actually getting into a plane crash are just 1 in 11 million, and even if you do, between 90 and 96% of people involved in airline accidents escape unscathed. As one statistician put it; if you took one flight a day, you would have to travel for 55,000 years before getting into an accident but think of all the air miles you’d have by then!
Back to lobsters! As it turns out, these creatures don’t just come in red, brown, or blue. Thanks to that previously mentioned mutation, the chance of finding a yellow lobster is approximately 1 in 30 million.
But that’s not even half of it, literally. A split-colored lobster is even rarer. With the shell containing not one, but 2 separate colors, the mutational odds of a lobster having a carapace like this are between just 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 million.
Winning a Powerball Lottery
In the United States, your odds of winning the Powerball lottery tend to float somewhere between 1 in 290 million and 1 in 300 million. To visualize just how astronomical these odds are, imagine 290 million lottery tickets stacked on top of each other. This pile would reach about 95,000 feet high, which is five times the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Imagine standing in front of this super stack of tickets and picking one out. Those are your odds of winning the lottery, about 0.00000005%. Some people choose to boost their odds by buying tickets in bulk, but even if you bought 100 tickets, your odds would still be just 0.00005%, not much better.
In order to stand a 1% chance of winning, you’d need to buy 2 million tickets. Considering tickets frequently sell for two bucks a pop, that means that 1% chance would cost you $4 million. Going purely by the numbers, if you wanted to secure a 100% chance of winning, you’d need to spend $400 million on tickets.
But considering the jackpot in the States is sometimes over a billion dollars, you’d actually still make a profit! As long as you don’t mind sorting through five Kilimanjaro’s worth of tickets.
Hearthstone Golden Cards
Are you young and nerdy enough to remember spending your allowance on Yu-Gi-Oh cards and desperately hoping for a great, rare card? If not, you're probably more familiar with Hearthstone, the hugely popular online trading card game.
Much like ancient Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Hearthstone cards also come in packs but digitally. Cards in the game range from mundane to incredibly rare, and your chances of opening a pack that contains 5 Legendary Golden cards is 1 in 3.2 billion.
Slipping on Fruit Peel
Banana peels are the scourge of Mario Kart. We’ve all seen a cartoon where someone hilariously slips on one, but how likely is it to actually happen? According to the Times-Post, your odds of meeting your end via a fruit peel mishap are just 1 in 3.5 billion.
Consider then the tragic demise of Bobby Leach: a born daredevil who parachuted out of hot air balloons and went over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1911. In 1926, he slipped on an orange peel fatally.
This entry is very special because it’s about you! At the time I’m writing this article, your odds of being uniquely you are 1 in 7.75 billion! And those odds are only going to shrink in your lifetime as the population increases. In fact, it’s estimated you’ll be 1 in 8 billion less than a year from now!
Rolling 18 in Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons is the incredibly popular tabletop roleplaying game that’s basically the only form of social interaction for many nerds from around the world. You have six stats in D&D, and when you create a character, you determine each of them by rolling four six-sided dice, removing the lowest result, and adding the remaining dice totals together.
This means the highest you can roll for a stat is 18. But if you want to create the most overpowered character ever, be patient, because your chances of rolling an 18 for every stat are 1 in 55,555,555,555.
Getting Two Royal Flush
Your odds of getting a single Royal Flush are so low, you probably won’t ever get one in your life. But that’s nothing! As rare as that is, some people have gotten Royal Flushes. As far as we know, though, no poker table in history has, or likely ever will, see two at the same time.
The odds of this phenomenon occurring are a staggering 1 in 422,162,067,600. In case you’re wondering, there’s no official ruling on who would win if it did happen.
Have you ever cracked an egg open to find two yellow yolks staring back at you? If you have, count yourself lucky, as the odds of an egg having two yolks are just 1 in 1000. If you’ve ever cracked six eggs and found 12 yolks, count yourself a miracle worker, because the odds of finding an entire carton of double-yolkers are 1 in 10 trillion.
The raw math here would tell us these odds would be closer to 1 in 10 quintillion. However, it turns out when a young bird lays its first egg, it’s more likely to be a double-yolker at around 1 in 100 odds.
As eggs in a carton often come from birds around the same age, the odds the first egg you crack will have two yolks is 1 in 1000 while every subsequent egg is 1 in 100. Double-yolk eggs are so prized we’ve bred chickens solely to produce these improbable treats. In this case, you wouldn’t really be lucky, just a satisfied customer!
Fingerprints are incredibly unique, and everybody has them! In fact, assuming all fingers are intact, everybody has ten, and they’re all unique! If you don’t believe it, try unlocking an iPhone with an unregistered finger.
Even identical twins have different fingerprints! The individuality of fingerprints has been known for a long time: as early as 1894, scientists were estimating the odds of two people sharing the same fingerprints were 1 in 64 trillion.
Crazier still is, with that in mind, in 2004 the FBI arrested an innocent man named Brandon Mayfield based on his fingerprints matching a criminal. Though this was later found to be down to laziness on the part of the FBI rather than incalculably bad luck on the part of Mayfield.
Being Frano Selak
Frano Selak may be the unluckiest man to ever live. In 1962 Frano was riding on a train when it derailed and plunged into an icy lake beneath the tracks. The accident claimed 17 lives and left him the sole survivor.
Two years later he decided to travel on a plane for the first and last time, as his plane crashed mid-flight! On two separate occasions in the 1970’s, Frano’s car burst into flames for seemingly no reason while he was inside.
In 1995 he was struck by a bus, and in 1996 he was forced off the road and had to jump from his car as it plummeted off a cliff. That same year he was riding the bus when it crashed, taking four people with it. If I were Frano, I would never trust public transportation again.
Now keeping in mind this data is particularly hard to quantify, the odds of one person getting into all these accidents is 7 in one quadrillion, nine hundred thirty trillion. Not to complicate things even further, but on his 73rd birthday he won the lottery. Maybe he was the luckiest man on Earth?
Four Royal Flush
Let’s go all-in on the cards odds: what are the chances you sit down with three other people, each draw five cards, and each one draws a Royal Flush hand? Now we’re getting into near functionally impossible territory. The odds of this configuration being dealt are a mind-boggling 1 in 178 sextillions.
Being Roy Sullivan
Roy Sullivan, born 1912, may just beat Frano for the title of unluckiest man to ever live. As we've seen earlier in the article, you have a 1 in 15,300 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime. It turns out that poor Roy was struck by lightning not once, not twice, but seven times.
This earned Roy the nickname “the human lightning rod”. He was a park ranger, which may clear some of this up, being out in the open all day does make you more likely to get struck by lightning than someone in an office 9-5. However, Roy wasn’t just struck by lightning on the job; but driving in his truck and in his own front yard!
The odds of Roy living this tragic, electrifying life are just 1 in 10 octillions. Sadly, towards the end of his life, Roy developed a phobia of clouds, and thought they were following him. With odds like that, he may have been right.
Astatine Chemical Element
In the year 2000, the utterly perplexing Fukang meteorite fell on Earth in China. Estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old, the beautiful rock is a bizarre mixture of iron and peridot. It’s the only known meteorite of its kind, and while you may think that qualifies it for the rarest material on Earth, it’s actually not even close. That would be Astatine.
The Earth’s crust is made up of an unimaginable 13 septillion pounds of matter, that’s a 13 with 24 zeros behind it! And of that unbelievable 13-with-24-zeros, only one ounce of Astatine exists in it at a time. This means the one-of-a-kind space meteorite is over 35,000 times more common than Astatine!
“At a time” is also an important point there, because astatine has a shockingly short half-life of eight hours. This means that if you clumped a bunch of it in your hands, after eight hours, half of it would be gone! Also, you’d have cramped hands.
This means your chances of finding an ounce of Astatine is 1 in 13 septillion. But even that might not be accurate, as that number is comparing an ounce of Astatine to pounds of Earth. As there are 16 ounces in a pound, it might be more accurate to say your odds are 1 in 13 Septillion times sixteen! That’s over 270 octillion!
On the surface, Minecraft appears simple, but don't be fooled! It’s a big, crazy game with lots of big, crazy math. For example, a lot of calculations are made in determining what enemies spawn in your world, with some combinations being exceedingly rare.
If you want to get silly, you can go out looking for a left-handed leader baby villager chicken jockey that can pick up items, is wearing diamond gear fully enchanted to level 8 with an enchanted iron sword of the same level.
You’ll be looking a while though, because the odds of this spawning are 0.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001,991,202,975% or 1 in 1.19 tredecillion.
You’ve probably heard the classic phrase, "if you give a monkey a typewriter, after long enough it’ll produce Shakespeare". Well, if you’re checking how long in the article it’s taken for this idea to come up, you can probably guess that isn’t quite accurate.
However, let's be nice to the monkey. Rather than an entire play, we'll be satisfied with one sentence: how about the famous “to be or not to be?” This sentence consists of 19 characters including spaces and that poignant question mark.
Most American typewriters can produce 88 characters with 44 keys. This means that the odds of a monkey typing the famous phrase are 1 in 88 to the nineteenth, or roughly 1 in 11 undecillions, which has 36 zeros behind it! Considering that’s just typing a single line from Hamlet, you can see how silly the idea of producing an entire Shakespeare play would be.
Shuffling Cards the Same Way Twice
Remember way back at the beginning of this article, when we were just pulling a card that we wanted from a deck? Let’s revisit those simple times to the extreme. What are the odds that a deck of cards will be ordered the exact same way after they’ve been shuffled? The math here is simple: as there are 52 cards in a deck, we multiply 52 by 51 by 50 by 49, etc.
This is a factorial, and it gets wild. It turns out your odds of shuffling a deck of cards the same way twice are 1 in 10 to the power of 68, or 1 in 100 unvigintillion. That’s a one with 68 zeros behind it. Let’s put this into perspective; our universe is around 13.8 billion years old and is expected to last at least another 20 billion years.
A billion seconds represents around 31 years so in a billion years, there are 31.5 quadrillion seconds. That means that if you began shuffling cards from the moment the universe came into existence and were able to shuffle and check your deck every second, you still would not have seen the same arrangement of cards twice by the time the universe stopped existing.
There is, quite literally, not enough time for this to happen naturally. This really highlights the skills of magicians like Ricky Jay, who was able to manipulate decks of cards so they would appear in the same order twice. Imagine being so good at something you can bend the laws of probability.
If you enjoyed contemplating the rarest things in the universe you might want to read this article about rare things you'd be lucky to see once in your life. Thanks for reading!