Thursday, July 22, 2010

Numberplay: Rare Coincidences Are Very Common!


“Wow!” “Amazing!” “Unbelievable!” “What are the chances of that?” Most, if not all of you, have uttered words like this at some time in your life. The paradoxical title of today’s Numberplay, then, is true: rare coincidences are really common.

Why should this be? After all, rare should be rare, shouldn’t it? People who are prone to magical thinking seize on such commonly experienced rare coincidences and ascribe cosmic significance to them, invoking Divine Providence or Pre-arranged Destiny or Synchronicity or some other favored pseudoscientific explanation. But if these coincidences are so common as to happen to everyone, then how significant can they be? It’s like that pearl of wisdom that I first heard from a treasured friend, The Talking Moose, on an old Mac computer over 20 years ago: “Remember that you are a unique individual — just like everyone else.”

Read the rest in the New York Times after the click.