Sunday, 11 January 2009

That was written about me...

Isn't it funny, that you tend to find references to your own life in to things you see and read. The other day, I was doing a crossword and almost every other answer in the grid seemed to refer to something happening in my life at the time. It's almost spooky.

Except it's not, of course.

Unlikely things happen all the time, of course. You just can't predict exactly which unlikely thing is going to happen. I can be certain that something statistically unlikely will happen to me in the next hour - but I can't predict what it will be.

For instance, if I go out for a walk (which I am considering doing, as it happens) then I could count the number of people I see out walking. If that number was zero, then I could come back and write "it was so weird, nobody was out there today, spooky eh?". If the number was exactly 100 I could write the same thing - except with some waffle about seeing exactly 100 people.

I am currently digging into my family tree again, and one of the things which surprises me is that I've not yet discovered that I'm related to either anyone famous or anyone else I know (except my family of course, but I already know I'm related to them). I think the same logic applies to the idea that seeing someone you know whilst you're out is somehow "spooky".

I know a lot of people. If I were to count up everyone I remember from school and University and everyone I've worked with over the past few years - plus everyone I remember meeting at parties and events - I'd easily count over 1000 people.

Now, let's say that I research my family tree back 10 generations. That is over a thousand direct ancestors of mine (presuming I've filled every blank in the family tree, that is). That's a lot of people.

And if everyone one of my 1000 acquaintances did the same thing, then although it's not impossible that every one of our 1000 ancestors doesn't overlap, it wouldn't be that surprising, either.

I think there's an in-built desire to marvel at things we perceive as unlikely - even when the statistics show that they're quite common. The most oft-cited example is that of gathering people in a room and finding out that two of them share the same birthday. I won't go into that one, as I'm sure it's familiar - but it brings me back to the earlier point of my Sunday walk...

A lot of people confuse this with gathering people in a room and suddenly expecting that one of them will share your birthday - which of course is fairly unlikely.

Anyway, before start editting this and inserting any semblence of rigour into the arguments above, I think I shall take the Sunday walk. Laters.

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