Amazing Coincidence

A number of years ago, I was sitting in my living room, painting a picture, and listening to Bruckner's Symphony No. 9. The TV was on, tuned to PBS, but the sound was off. I looked at the TV, and saw that they were showing something about World War II, German tanks and dive-bombers. I turned off the stereo, and turned up the TV. And, what I heard was the same movement of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9. I was momentarily confused, because the TV and the stereo sounded identical. And that is not a very well-known piece of music.

It is a little difficult to determine just how amazing any given coincidence really is. Let's say that you are humming a popular tune. You turn on the radio, and they are playing the same tune. Amazing, but is it all that amazing? It depends. If this tune is very popular, they may play it several times a day. And, maybe you have been humming tunes all your life. And so, there have been thousands of opportunities for this to happen. But this is the first time that it has happened to you. It may even be better than even money that this will happen once in your life. It may not be amazing, although it seems very amazing at the time. And you remember the one coincidence and forget all the times that were mundane.

You go to another town, hundreds of miles away. You go to a shopping mall, and there you encounter a friend of yours from back home. Amazing coincidence? Fairly amazing, you may have lots of friends (hopefully). You may have been to other towns many times, and seen many thousands of people. Every once in a while, you should see someone you know. And you never notice the many non-coincidences.

Flipping a coin, I flipped eight heads in a row. Amazing? One head has a chance of 1/2. Eight in a row has a chance of 1/256, fairly long odds. But, how long was I flipping coins? If I had been doing it for thousands of flips, I should eventually get eight heads in a row. It's almost guaranteed, eventually.

By the way, flipping heads can be a big scam. A friend of mine can (he claims) flip heads about nine out of ten times, when he is under a fluorescent light. These lights flash off and on at 60 cycles. As his coin flips end over end, at just the right rate of rotation, he sees only heads or tails, and he sees gaps in the path of the coin. And, he can adjust the height at which he catches the coin, so that he almost always gets heads, or so he claims. It may not be much more difficult to do this without the help of a flashing light source.

Supposedly, some people can make a coin flip the same number of times, and end up heads, most of the time.

Anton Bruckner is not a well-known composer. He wrote six very powerful, and beautiful symphonies (numbers 4 through 9). I recommend them highly. Bruckner also wrote a Symphony #0. I like that idea. Apparently he numbered that one himself. It was written before his Symphony #1, but was published much later.