jungle trip

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ESOL 1310

Luis Prieto

ID Number: 80469002


The Power of Coincidence

Coincidence-a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection- allows us to examine one of the most basic questions we can ask: are the events of our lives objective or subjective? For skeptics, a coincidence is a chance; it simply obeys the laws of probability and has no special meaning. John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia, argues that the most "incredible coincidence imaginable would be the complete absence of all coincidence". For believers, however, coincidence is the purposeful occurrence of two seemingly unrelated events. People who believe in coincidence have a need to give greater importance to their lives than they really have. However, the argument is not likely to be resolved any time soon. Humans may have an innate ability to connect anomalies in a meaningful way. Furthermore, many brain functions depend on our natural ability to notice coincidences.

Mathematicians, cognitive scientists, and paranormal researchers have begun studying the problem of coincidence in a different way- by applying statistics and probability.

To go on, people long believed comets to be cosmic messages of some kind. For instance, the Romans recorded that a comet appeared when Julius Cesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.E. In 1705 English astronomer Edmund Halley was looking through old records of comets when he noticed a coincidence: the bright comets of 1531,1607, and 1682 had almost the same orbits and appeared approximately every 75 years. Indeed, coincidences can actually help science progress. Josh Tenenbaum, a cognitive scientist at MIT, sees this as an interesting contradiction. "On the one hand they seem to be the

source of our greatest irrationalities. On the other hand, some of our greatest feats of scientific discovery depend on coincidences".