Thursday 31st July 2014
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The UK Lotto Machines

Picking lottery numbers at random is a serious business. Human intervention with the number selection process could always lead to accusations of fraud or rigging, and for this reason all modern lotteries use machines to pick the numbers automatically. The UK National Lottery uses eleven machines (which are themselves picked at random for each draw), and they all work in exactly the same way. However, we thought it would be interesting to look at each of their names and what they signify.

The first five names are taken from Arthurian legend, as follows:

Merlin is named after the wise and powerful wizard made most famous in the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, although Merlin himself preceded the Arthurian legends.

Arthur is named after the previously mentioned King Arthur, who was aided in his quests by the knights of the Round Table. Although British mythology makes him a king, the oldest Welsh references to this character do not specify this, and it is unknown whether Arthur was a purely fictional character or a mythological persona based on an actual person.

Galahad is the third machine to be named after a character from Arthurian myth. In this case, Sir Galahad was a knight of the round table and one of three people to achieve the Holy Grail.

Vyvyan was the name of the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend. According to the ancient tales, she presented King Arthur with a magical sword called Excalibur, and was foster mother to Sir Lancelot.

Lancelot is named after the previously mentioned knight of the Round Table, and is one of the most popular characters in Arthurian legend.

The next six names are gemstones which have specific associations, as follows:

Garnet is usually a deep orange/red coloured gemstone (other colours of garnet exist, but are much rarer). It is associated with constancy in friendships and success in business.

Topaz is either silver or - after irradiation treatment - blue, with the latter colour most commonly associated with it. It signifies healing and forgiveness.

Opal is either blue or red-orange (the latter being known as fire opal) and is associated with healing and enhanced communication.

Amethyst is crystalline quartz with a purple colour. The word amethyst itself is derived from the Greek, "amethystos", which means "not drunken". It is therefore traditionally associated with sobriety.

Moonstone is an opaque white colour and has several associations, including the ability to keep relationships passionate, improve intuition and increase good fortune.

Pearl is named after the substance formed by molluscs such as oysters, and which has been used to make jewellery for centuries. It symbolises purity and innocence.