Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What are the chances?

Tonight is High Wycombe Skeptics in the Pub, a meeting of rationalists, humanists, atheists, secularists and beer lovers. Do come along if you feel any of those labels fit you, or if you just fancy chatting to interesting and intelligent people over a few beers.

The point of this blog entry was not supposed to be an advert for SiTP (but too late now I've done it!) but rather I was reminded of our meeting 2 weeks ago when the excellent Stevyn Colgan gave us a little talk/presentation about the year he decided to test luck.

It was an interesting and funny story involving much walking under ladders, collecting lucky charms, crossing the path of black cats and horseshoes. He tested his luck by rolling two dice multiple times to see if he would roll double six more than statistically likely.

I won't give away the results of his little experiment, as he hopes to do the talk around other groups, and maybe put a book together on the topic one day, but it got us all thinking about luck, and superstitions we may hold.

The next morning my mind was still full of rabbits feet, charms and chance, I considered walking to work not stepping on any of the cracks in the pavement, but abandoned the idea and got on with making my way to work.

I had only walked 50 metres when I saw this graffiti daubed on the wall...


Double one, snake eyes...the unlucky roll of the dice! What are the chances of that?

Well, the chances were the same as the day before, as I am fairly sure the graffiti had not appeared overnight, but because of what was on my mind I noticed it that day.

It was a perfect illustration of some of what Steve had been talking about the night before, and the phenomenon came up again in an excellent book I read last week by Richard Wiseman called Quirkology. (it is a form of what I know as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, although I don't think Wiseman calls it this).

I also noticed that these dice, as well as not being very fair, are also impossible, as the six always opposes the one. I checked my collection of dice to confirm this! (Yes I have a collection of dice I may post a picture later in the week!)

Putting all this together it looks like I am going to have a lucky week... fingers crossed!

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