Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday
“Wow!” “Amazing!” “Unbelievable!” “What are the chances of that?” Most, if not all of you, have uttered words like this at some time in your life. The paradoxical title of today’s Numberplay, then, is true: rare coincidences are really common.
Why should this be? After all, rare should be rare, shouldn’t it? People who are prone to magical thinking seize on such commonly experienced rare coincidences and ascribe cosmic significance to them, invoking Divine Providence or Pre-arranged Destiny or Synchronicity or some other favored pseudoscientific explanation. But if these coincidences are so common as to happen to everyone, then how significant can they be? It’s like that pearl of wisdom that I first heard from a treasured friend, The Talking Moose, on an old Mac computer over 20 years ago: “Remember that you are a unique individual — just like everyone else.”
Today, we’ll see how the commonness of rare coincidences can be fully explained by nothing more than an interaction of mathematics and human psychology, creating a few distinct patterns of fallacious thinking, which I’ll give as label and problem.1 The first one is Too Many Targets.
I suggested yesterday in the “Word snobbery” post that the term grammar Nazi merits an unfavorable look. I think it is objectionable both as an exaggeration and as a violation of the contemporary Rules of Disparagement.
Amazon US says it has sold 143 digital books for every 100 hardbacks in the last three months
Today, greener-than-thou gardeners crusade for heirloom seeds, while unjustly damming hybrids. Increasingly, their anti-science credo has hardened into a Luddite fundamentalism, resulting in confusion among the public between hybrids and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Clearly, the hybrid versus heirloom imbroglio is about more than the quest for the biggest, most delicious tomato.
A survey of the cognitive benefits of music makes a valid case for its educational importance. But that's not the best reason to teach all children music, says Philip Ball.