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Thread: coincidences

  1. #16
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    I agree with Turtles, many coincidences are insignificant.

    However, I have just found this forum, and I am rather astonished that there are so many people on here hip to such things as dubstep/grime, Adorno and Phillip K. Dick.

    I dont read any mystikal implications into this, but it does blow my mind in a small way!

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Dust View Post
    I'm not going to bite but do you believe it's possible, by any method, to force the hand of chance?
    Do we have the ability to force chance? Well outside of actually physically interacting with whatever chance we're talking about (i'm not really sure what we're talking about), then no, we have no ability to somehow change probabilities for events outside our control or affect.

  3. #18
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    well i went to this random thing last night where my mate was playing and out of the group of people i was thinking about the other day who i hadn't seem for for years, (two of whom i saw at the weekend) who should be there, but the third person that links the first two together, he is the ex flatmate of the first person i saw and the ex boyfriend of the second person i saw.
    so there you go.

  4. #19
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    Turtles is right. "Co-incidences" are for the most part, not remarkable at all. They're predicted by statistics - it's just human nature to attach special significance to them.

    Another factor is sub-conscious influences, so-called transliminity. This is what people like Derren Brown exploit, appearing to "force the hand of chance", by making you think of a certain event, pick a certain card, etc etc without being consciously aware you are directed towards them. This happens in the everyday too - something below the level of your conscious experience is noted, and connections are formed, leading your mind to bring to the surface a thought about someone you havn't seen for a while, for example.

    Here's a short article on the statistics of co-incidences, from New Scientist. I can post a longer one on transliminity and the paranormal if people are interested:

    What are the chances?
    25 September 2004
    From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
    Robert Matthews


    MANY people would call them spooky: bizarre coincidences that loom out at us from the randomness of everyday events. But obviously there's nothing in them. Everyone knows that randomness is the very essence of patternless, lawless disorder.

    Obvious, but wrong. Peer hard enough into the fog of randomness, and you can glimpse regularities and universal truths normally associated with deep cosmic order. Why? Because what we call randomness is only a chained and muzzled version of the real thing. When forced to act within certain limits, imposed on it by the constraints of the world we live in, randomness sheds just a little of its notorious mathematical lawlessness. The effect is often subtle, but sometimes it's as plain as day - when you know where to look.

    Take lottery numbers, for example. Surprisingly, barely half of all lottery draws look like the kind of jumble of six numbers one expects when randomness is at work. Among the other half, tiny specks of order appear: a pair of consecutive numbers, perhaps, or longer or more intricate runs.

    But no one is fixing the lottery - statistical tests have proved this - so what is going on? Look at the numbers used in each draw. Truly random numbers know no bounds but those in the lottery have no such freedom. In the UK's Lotto game, for example, they are confined to the range 1 to 49. And whenever randomness has its style cramped in this way, with only certain outcomes allowed, it loses some of its utter lawlessness and unpredictability. Instead, it must fall into line with probability theory, which describes the behaviour of infinite randomness in a finite world.

    In the case of the UK's Lotto, probability theory proves that examples of apparently anomalous order will show up in roughly half of all draws. When randomness is compelled to scatter surprises among just a limited number of outcomes, we should expect the unexpected.

    Take the weekend of 14 and 15 August this year, the first of this year's English football premiership competition, when 20 teams played each other in 10 matches. It turns out that half of those matches featured players sharing the same birthday. A bizarre coincidence? In fact, probability theory shows that when randomness is forced to scatter the birthdays of the 22 players in each match among the 365 days of a year, there is a roughly 50:50 chance that at least two players in a match will share the same birthday. In other words, around half of the 10 matches played on that first weekend should have seen at least two players sharing the same birthday. And that's exactly what happened.

    Probability theory also predicted a roughly 50:50 chance that at least one player out of the 230 playing that weekend would be celebrating his birthday on the day of the match. In fact, two were: Jay-Jay Okocha of Bolton Wanderers, and Johnnie Jackson of Tottenham Hotspur.

    Looking harder still at randomness reveals more subtle signs of its revolt against constraint. Around a century ago, the statistician Ladislaus Bortkiewicz produced a classic study of fatalities in the Prussian army that highlights a bizarre link between randomness and a universal mathematical constant known as e. This never-ending decimal number, which begins 2.718281..., often pops up in natural processes where the rate of some process depends on the present state of the system, such as the rate of growth of populations, or radioactive decay.

    Bortkiewicz's data shows this universal number can also be found lurking in random events, such as the risk of death from a horse-kick. According to the reports, the Prussian soldiers all faced a small but finite risk of death from horse-kicks, amounting to an average of one fatality every 1.64 years. Bortkiewicz found that of the 200 reports, 109 recorded no deaths at all. Now divide 200 by 109, and raise the result to the power 1.64, the average interval between deaths through horse-kicks. The result is 2.71 - within 1 per cent of e.

    A fluke? Not at all: it's to do with the mathematics of what are called Poisson distributions. Probability theory shows that e can be expected to pop up when lots of randomly triggered events are spread over a restricted interval of time. The same is true of events spread over a limited region of space: you can extract a value of e from the impact sites of the V-1 "flying bombs" targeted on south London during the second world war. While there were hundreds of impacts, the chances of randomness landing a V-1 on a specific part of the capital were low. And analysing the data in the same way as for horse-kick deaths leads to a value for e of 2.69 - again, within around 1 per cent of the exact value.

    It's a similar story with everything from radioactive decay to the rate at which wars break out between nations over the years. In each case, the chances of the event may be low, but there are lots of opportunities for it to happen, and randomness responds by allowing e to inveigle its way into the data.

    Cajoling the constants

    Suitably cajoled, randomness will also produce values for probably the most famous universal constant of all. Drop a needle carelessly onto wooden floorboards: the number of times it falls across a gap between the floorboards depends on the dimensions of the needle, the floorboards and... p. It appears because of the random angle at which the needle ends up on the floor. Observe a few tens of thousands of such events and an accurate value of p emerges from the randomness.

    If you want to try it without the needles, gather together a million pairs of random integers and check whether each pair has any common factor. Multiply the proportion of the total that don't by 6 and take the square root: the result is an impressively accurate value of p.

    This same approach lets you extract values for p from the scattering of stars across the night sky. Compare the distance between any two stars on the celestial sphere with that of any other pair. Do this for the 100 brightest stars in the sky, and the common-factor method gives you a "celestial" value for p of 3.12772 - within 0.5 per cent of the true value.

    We humans seem to have a penchant for seeing patterns in randomness, from religious figures in clouds to faces on Mars. We're right to dismiss most of them as nothing more than illusions, but sometimes they are real. Anyone who knows numbers can see that the mystics were onto something - there really are patterns hidden among the stars.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tryptych View Post
    Turtles is right. "Co-incidences" are for the most part, not remarkable at all. They're predicted by statistics - it's just human nature to attach special significance to them.

    Another factor is sub-conscious influences, so-called transliminity. This is what people like Derren Brown exploit, appearing to "force the hand of chance", by making you think of a certain event, pick a certain card, etc etc without being consciously aware you are directed towards them. This happens in the everyday too - something below the level of your conscious experience is noted, and connections are formed, leading your mind to bring to the surface a thought about someone you havn't seen for a while, for example.

    Here's a short article on the statistics of co-incidences, from New Scientist. I can post a longer one on transliminity and the paranormal if people are interested:
    they are remarkable, they are lush when they happen and you can learn to interpret coincidences or just get alot of pleasure from them, just because there may be some quantifiable reasons for them it does'nt make it any less wonderful when patterns form or coincidences happen.

  6. #21
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    ^Oh - I agree with you totally. But I'm not sure what makes them any more remarkable than pretty much any other natural phenomena.

    I was trying to argue against any "spooky" reasoning behind such co-incidences, whether mystical, or anthropomorphisising of nature.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tryptych View Post
    ^Oh - I agree with you totally. But I'm not sure what makes them any more remarkable than pretty much any other natural phenomena.

    I was trying to argue against any "spooky" reasoning behind such co-incidences, whether mystical, or anthropomorphisising of nature.
    Yeah I second this, I'm not really sure why I ended up coming down so hard on coincidences, i think they're cool and fun, just not necessarily indicative of any deeper significance

  8. #23
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    Everything is changing at once. When we notice it in a moment of synchronicity we call it coincidence.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Dust View Post
    I've always enjoyed it, 23 haunts me every single day
    yeah me too. It's the magic number

  10. #25
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    I love 23 too but thats cos my birthday is 23 march

    In Brighton one of our hippy teases is a game called 'THATS AMAAAAAAAAAZING' because Brighton is full of hippies that go 'thats amazing...' when you tell them something. e.g. you meet a hippy in the street and you say 'do you like my new llama skin coat' and the hippy says 'thats amaaazing i just had a dream about a llama'.

    In the game what you do is pick a word out of the dictionary at random and then you have to say a coincidental thing about the word you've just chosen and then you go 'thats amaaaaaaaaaaazing...'

    Its a stupid game .

  11. #26

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    I used to have these all the time, with specific people. The last time was a few years ago, I was literally dreaming that this childhood friend was ringing me and crying about the fact their boyfriend was seeing someone else, then I woke up and a second later my phone text alert went off, and there was a text with their message, saying that they'd discovered their boyfriend was seeing....etc etc.

    As for forcing the hand of chance, I suppose you can on a practical physical level ie- if you feel life's passing you by, get off your arse and go and take a chance and do something unusual. In terms of manipulating these coincidences by other means, I don't know - I'm interested in the possibility, though I once took part in some ESP assessment and scored 0 out of 15 (the average person is 2-3 apparently), which means on the good side, I'm invulnerable to psychic attack, on the negative side, I have the empathy and perspective of a half-brick.

  12. #27

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    Great post Martin, I've never really made my mind up to be honest - I've seen and done some strange stuff that would lead me to believe (FTHC) it is possible but I can't even sit still for five minutes so figured I'd never bother doing the Abramerlin...

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by martin View Post
    I used to have these all the time, with specific people. The last time was a few years ago, I was literally dreaming that this childhood friend was ringing me and crying about the fact their boyfriend was seeing someone else, then I woke up and a second later my phone text alert went off, and there was a text with their message, saying that they'd discovered their boyfriend was seeing....etc etc.

    .
    Well thats it isnt it, i was thinking about someone from canada, vaguely famous, never met him or had any need or contact, no crossed friends etc, i'd read a bit about him etc and told a few people about him on tuesday, and within half an hour he'd emailed me.

    strang
    Last edited by mms; 03-11-2006 at 07:10 PM.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Dust View Post
    I'm not going to bite but do you believe it's possible, by any method, to force the hand of chance?
    I don't really understand how that question relates to what he's saying.

  15. #30
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    heres a couple of recent ones. i was sitting by the lea writing some ode to the river god and about how hes mates with a kingfisher that sits on his shoulder and whispers in his ear or something (yeah, what, thats my idea of fun!) and i then saw three kingfishers that day, two in hackney on the lea and one in stratford on one of the bow backs rivers. anyone who walks around there will know thats a coincidence. theres kingfishers about but to see one is rare, 3 is mind blowing.

    or heres another one.i was walking through hackney and i saw a cecilia rd. and i thought o, i know a cecilia. but i didnt think much of it until a few minutes later i see this chemist,
    j. edmonds and i thought rah, thats her full name, so i crossed the road and went to an internet place and sure enough, there was the first email id had from her for months and months.

    or in june 2001 writing about explosions and glass raining down in the sepetmber sun

    i got too many of these to be honest, i could keep going for ever and they're all much better than oh, someone rang and i knew who it was. thats not a coincidence, thats common sense.

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