Tag Archive: Wikipedia

Accident Down Under

(Submitted by Skepticality listener  Craig.)


I have this story this is totally legit, happened to me a few months ago.

Basically one Sunday night we heard a big crash out the front of our house. Turns out a car had crashed through our neighbour and my front fence with three young occupants (2 males, 1 female). The police came and took the relevant details and while getting names we realised the driver lived right next door to my sister, who lives two suburbs away (Melbourne, Australia). She always said they were dodgy neighbours!

Then when the my neighbours daughter in law came around to see if everything was fine she realised that she knew the female occupant of the car (who then begged not to tell her parents). Her sister was the god mother of the girl.

So it was to co-incidents in the one crash. The odd’s must be crazy!



Below are the extended notes provided by contributing editor Mark Gouch for use in Skepticality Episode 249. Mark is a wastewater treatment system operator and engineer living in Smithtown, NY (Long Island). He started to become interested in coincidences after recognizing the series of events that conspired to get him employment on Long Island many years ago. Two of Mark’s recommended books include “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” by American physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow, and “The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives” by Shankar Vedantam.

Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary.

There is an old adage that says most car accidents happen close to home. We’ve all heard this, and it seems reasonable that since we drive to and from our homes quite often, that we probably spend a lot more time driving near our home than far away, so we would expect to have more accidents close to home.

According to DrivingToday web site , this kind of data is surprisingly not typically gathered by law enforcement or insurance companies, but the Progressive Insurance company completed a survey in 2001 to try to find out. (Gather a decent amount of data, analyze the data, and learn something. What a progressive thing to do! )

According to the site, they gathered information from people who were involved in 11,000 accidents, and found 52 % occurred within 5 miles of home and 77% within 15 miles. (Isn’t it nice when actual statistics confirm what we thought we already knew? This seems to be not usually the case. So much of what people think is true turns out not to be true when researched objectively. But that is another story).

Craig said his sister lived two suburbs away. Suburbs is not a standard unit of distance in the U.S., so we are not sure how far that is. It’s probably safe to assume the distance is 15 miles or less. If so, then the person driving had really good odds of having an accident within a radius that includes his house.

So the fact that the driver lived only two towns away has to be considered as unremarkable. Or actually: pretty likely. It would be highly unlikely for a person who lives in Canada or Argentina to have crashed into your yard.

Your neighbor’s daughter-in-law knows one of the people in the car. So let’s restate this: Not your neighbor, not his child, but the child’s spouse knew someone in the car. So the acquaintance had three “degrees of separation”, so to speak, half way to Kevin Bacon (not sure if your part of the world will get that reference).

It seems that this coincidence should be calculated by the number of acquaintances that your neighbor’s family has compared to the number of people living in the greater Melbourne area. The number of acquaintances that people have on average has been estimated by various methods to be in a wide range of between 150 and 300.

A very cool teenage acquaintance I asked said 1,500 minimum, in this, the social media age. But I think that is high. According to Robin Dunbar on the Social Science Space Web Site, a good estimate is 150. In this case we are talking about acquaintances of family members, who will have some overlap in the people they know, so let’s conservatively use 100.

So if your neighbor knows 100 people and each one of those 100 knows 100 people, then the total number of acquaintances of your neighbor and his acquaintances is 100 * 100 or 10,000. Assume your neighbors have two children, and both are married. So we have your neighbor and his wife, their two kids, and their two spouses, for a total of 6 people. Those 6 people should have about 60,000 acquaintances. Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge) indicates that about 4.5 million people live in the greater Melbourne area . So it seems that the odds of this coincidence would be about 60,000/4,500,000 or about 1.33 out of a hundred. That’s not all that low. (if we used 150 the odds come out to 3.0 out of a hundred.

  • http://www.drivingtoday.com/features/archive/crashes/index.html#axzz3SQw6YAQU
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon
  • http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2013/11/robin-dunbar-on-dunbar-numbers
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne

Three Wiki Sixes

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Susan Gerbic of  Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia)

I was preparing for an upcoming Wikipedia workshop.  I chose November 2011 at random to retrieve stats for pages.

The Amityville Horror Wikipedia page had 66,633 views that month.

No way could someone have messed with the numbers because you can’t see how many hits a page receives until 36 hours after the fact.

[EDITOR: Numbers and how we perceive them always make for an interesting subject because they’re a perfect example of of searching with uncertain goals in mind. In the case above, the number was significant because it contained “666,” which some consider the number of the beast reference in a well-known holy text. Combining this with the Amityville Horror, which is a story of a supposedly real haunted house, is what makes the number’s appearance spooky. But it’s not as though this combination is uncommon.

In the example given, the number has 5 digits in total. 666 could have appeared in three possible places (66,6xx, x6,66x, or xx,666) and still caught someone’s eye. Presumably an especially observant person might have caught it spread out, as well (6x,6×6). And that’s sticking ONLY with 666. There are other numbers with classic occult meaning behind them, including 3 (although that does add to the spook factor of the above number ending with 33), 7, 9 (999 being the flip of 666), 11, and of course 13 (reference link).

So presumably any of those sets of numbers showing up in the hits could also grab the attention of someone predisposed to think of them. Some even pay attention to multiples or divisions of those numbers (although that does cover the 33 and 999 already discussed).

And that speaks only to occult numbers. People find significance in all sorts of other numbers, whether they be birthdays, anniversaries, favorite/lucky numbers, or all sorts of unusual examples. Had the number above been any different SOMEONE who looked at it was virtually guaranteed to find a number string that was, to them, meaningful. And small strings of combinations of only 10 digits are ripe for common reuse throughout everything we see. So unlike many of the stories we run on this site, numerical coincidences are probably the easiest to find on a regular basis. And yet… having said that, sometimes they still manage to surprise the heck out of you. And if you happen to be superstitious, I imagine some can be downright scary. But they’re still just coincidences. – Jarrett]