« The noir fan's wet dream | Main | Alerting for BSP »

January 24, 2005


Mary R

There was a great article in the NYTimes magazine a while back debunking this, and talking about how often "impossible" things happen.


MAGAZINE DESK | August 11, 2002, Sunday

The Odds of That

By LISA BELKIN (NYT) 8159 words
Late Edition - Final , Section 6 , Page 32 , Column 1

ABSTRACT - Lisa Belkin article explains why complex science of coincidence is conspiracy theorists' worst nightmare, especially in paranoid times following Sept 11; says many people point out that numbers 9/11 (9 plus 1 plus 1) equal 11, and American Airlines Flight 11 was first to hit twin towers and there were 92 people on board (9 plus 2), and Sept 11 is 254th day of year (2 plus 5 plus 4); says when asked what are odds of this happening, mathematician will answer that even in most unbelievable situations, odds are actually very good; law of large numbers says that with large enough denominator--such as big wide world--even very weird things can happen; Persi Diaconis, statistician who has spent his career collecting and studying examples of coincidence, says that because there are 280 million people in United States, 280 times a day a one-in-a-million s hot is going to occur; photos (L)


I love that his credentials for spewing this story are that he's a self-published author and newsletter writer.


Conspiracy theories are just extreme cases of trying to get order from chaos, so when coincidences start to "add up" it sends them into a kind of frenzy. But the people who believe them are even more dogmatic than the strident, fervently religious types -- because I think, in a way, conspiracy theories *are* rather like religion.

The comments to this entry are closed.