Tag Archive: wedding

(Submitted by reader Timothy Vizthum)

After high school, I worked at a camp during one summer. While there I met my first girlfriend, though we only dated for a few months. Three years later, I volunteered for a NGO in Israel that worked with Palestinian refugees. Although the NGO usually has 30 or so volunteers, this was 2002 and with the uptick in violence, there were only 3 other volunteers, a Swede, a Swiss woman, and another American. Over the course of the 5 months that we were there I found out that the American woman was not only from the same town as my first girlfriend, but had even graduated from the same high school in the same year.

After coming back home and starting college at UC Santa Barbara, I was in church talking with this friend, who turns out was also from the same town and graduated from the high school, in the same year.

A few years past that I attended my brother’s wedding. As my wife and myself began talking to this other couple, we found out that, she had attending the same high school and graduated the same year. There were only thirty people at this wedding.

The town were my former girlfriend had attended has about 900 students in grades 8-12. The community it is in is a hour or so outside Fresno on the way to Yosemite. What are the odds of meeting up randomly with this many people from the same high school?

Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 219.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.

The author is talking about the odds of meeting people at any time, which is impossible to quantify since the number of people we encounter depends on our activities, where we live, and a number of other factors.

I would note that most of us would be very surprised by the number of common facts the people we encounter share with each other and ourselves if a full inventory could be had. How many people does the author meet each week or month? And, more importantly, how many people does the author talk to and what do they talk about? There are probably much more interesting coincidences that were never discovered.

Last week we were excited to learn that George Hrab mentioned us in episode 251 of the Geologic Podcast. We’re definitely fans of his wide range of work, so the shoutout was a personal moment for the team. Some of us were even mildly verklempt, which was all the more relevant thanks to his mention of Gefilte fish, though less so since we’re not actually Jewish.

After a brief conversation with George via email, he graciously provided us with permission to post a transcript of his thoughts on the subject which I’ve placed below, followed by some additional thoughts by me, assuming you care. Please validate me by caring. Also, please listen to the podcast if you haven’t already since you get the nuances of George’s delivery, along with his general Georgeness.

Geologic Podcast #251 – Coincidence Transcript

I saw an interesting web site–no, a little blog post. There’s a place called The Odds Must Be Crazy. We’ll try to link to that in the show notes. But someone went onto The Odds Must Be Crazy–Brian H–he wrote this. He said, “I was listening to George Hrab’s podcast (episode 240) on my iPod while heading out to one of my familiar lunch spots in Santa Monica, California. In this episode George did a bit called the History Chunk where he tells what happened on this particular date in history, usually in chronological order, and the makes some kind of joke about it. He mentions how in 1982, boxer Duk Koo Kim died after a bout with Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. Thirty seconds later I see Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini having lunch in the very restaurant I was walking into.  I clandestinely snapped his picture.”

This site is really interesting, and it talks about sort of the odds of things happening and how it can seem that the odds of something must be so astronomical that there must be some kind of a sign. So this Brian was listening to the show, I say “Boom Boom” Mancini, he looks up, and there’s “Boom Boom” Mancini. Now how could we calculate the odds of that occurring? I don’t know, but they’re astronomical. They’re astronomical. And yet if you think, “how many people that listen to the show didn’t see Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini when I said it?”, that would help to demonstrate the odds being not quite as horrifically set against as you might imagine.

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Right Name, Right Time

(Submitted by reader Thomas Brown)

Way back before our wedding, my wife and I were making a short list of wedding guests and my wife was stumped…  She wanted to invite this friend of a friend that she liked but could not remember her name.

I was going to start brainstorming names for her and started out, “Maria?”  A slight pause and then, “Elena?”  Whereupon my wife’s eyes grew wide as she said, “Maria Elena — that’s it!!”

I had not (yet) met this woman, and my wife had never spoken of her until this occurrence.  Now, granted, I was pretty sure that this woman was Latina which narrowed down my choice of names — but to nail both her names, in order?!?!

[EDITOR: While we can’t delve into the submitter’s mind and pick out names for him, anyone with stats on popularity of Latina names want to take a stab at the stats on this one? It could definitely skew either way, but even with common American names guessing “Robert” and “James” is unlikely to stumble upon someone with that combo. Culturally, could the combination in question be likely enough for this to be expected, or is it as surprising as it sounds at first blush?]

Wedding plans by the Numb3rs

(Submitted by reader Karen K)

My husband and I were watching a taped version of the TV show  “Numb3rs” last night.  A sub-plot had to do with two of the main characters setting a date for their wedding.  This went on for most of the show.  In the end, another character suggested October 9th, his wedding anniversary, and they decided that this would be the perfect date for them also.

October 9th, coincidentally, happens to be our wedding anniversary.

It sounds like that this would be only a chance of 1 out of 365, but of course, most  Americans are married on Saturday, so that leaves about 1 in 52 for years where Oct. 9 is a Saturday like 2010.