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World renowned statistician at Cambridge University makes case for COINCIDENCES

By Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth on 20/03/2013

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I have been getting reactions from different quarters since I started this column, COINCIDENCES. Though some people misunderstand the concept of the column, others very much appreciate it and never hesitate to say so. However, this feedback is the most extensive and illustrates the fact that coincidences are of interest to statisticians around the globe. Here is what David Spiegelhalter, a world renowned statistician, said while making a case for this column on his page at Cambridge University’s website:

“By recording your coincidence stories here, you can help him build a picture of what kinds of coincidences are out there and which ones seem to ‘get to’ us the most. Your coincidence stories can also help him explore the scientific explanations which may account for them – whether by doing the Maths to calculate the chances of a coincidence, or speculating on the weird and wonderful workings of our brains.

“Coincidences tend to be ‘surprising matches’ – sometimes they are lucky, sometimes unlucky, sometimes just mind-boggling. To help you recall the coincidences that have happened in your life, here’s a list of some common types of coincidence:

Surprising repetitions: for instance when you’ve had not contact with someone for ages, then find two connections to them very close together in time. Or when over several years multiple members of the same family are born with the same birthday. Or even a repetition of a really rare event – like winning the lottery twice, or your life being saved twice by the same person!

Simultaneous events: for example when two people phone each other at exactly the same time.

Parallel lives: such as when two people in a small group find they share a birthday or an unusual name, or when two people discover their lives match each other in bizarre details.

Uncanny patterns: imagine picking letters in Scrabble that spell your name.

Unlikely chains of events: perhaps you lost your false teeth overboard and found them inside a fish you caught twenty years later?”

Appreciation for this column was also evident when one of my write ups on Abraham Lincoln and Obafemi Awolowo was selected for use by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundaion.

Americans love to read coincidences, especially the one that concern their Presidents – in particular the ones on J. F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

Albert Einstein once said: “Coincidence is Gods way of remaining anonymous.” And Wole Soyinka once said: “God moves in a mischievous way.”

This is always at the back of my mind when I do my write ups.

What I try to do is to present the facts.

Americans are great at lionising their leaders. I hope we would be patient enough to make our institutions grow. Corruption is not a Nigerian word. Bad leadership is no peculiar to Nigeria. It has existed in the Western world.

If you read history you would find that nothing new is happening in Nigerian. There is, therefore, no reason for anyone to get mad when I highlight coincidences between Nigerian leaders for whom they may not have high regard and great achievers from other parts of the world.

COINCIDENCES is a weekly column that appears on Wednesdays. The columnist, Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth, is based in England, Britain, but can be reached via e-mail through atogonub@hotmail.co.uk or info@newsexpressngr.com

Source News Express

Posted 20/03/2013 6:20:17 PM

 

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