Synchronicity on steroids

Two weeks ago, on January 25, I received from two friends two e-mails in the same Send/Receive. One was marked as being received at 3:38 p.m., the other at 3:39 p.m.

The second, received at 3:39 p.m., was from a friend who wrote:

I just came upon this poem by Walt Whitman. It’s great how Whitman acknowledges the past, says America carries all the past within itself in a way.

As soon as I had read that e-mail, I looked at the other one, which had come in from Irv P. at 3:38 p.m. It concerned our plans to go out to dinner on Long Island the next evening. He recommended a restaurant called Frederick’s. I immediately went to the website of Frederick’s, the “Best Restaurant in Long Island,” and this was the first sentence at the website:

The ambiance of old world charm set in a quaint white house on Walt Whitman Road.

Now, how often do I get an e-mail referencing Walt Whitman? Let’s say, as a conservative guess, once a year, though it’s probably less often than that. So, then, what are the chances that within one minute I would receive two totally unrelated e-mails both prominently mentioning, or linking a website that prominently mentions, Walt Whitman?

- end of initial entry -

Josh W. writes:

If we assume that you receive one e-mail per year regarding Walt Whitman, and that this event takes place over the course of one minute, then the chances of you receiving such an e-mail during any randomly chosen minute are 1 out of (365 * 1440), or 0.000001902588. Therefore, the chances of you receiving two e-mails regarding Walt Whitman during each (not “either”) of two chosen minutes would be the square of that quantity, or 0.000000000003619839. This is about 3E-12, or three trillionths.

LA replies:

Hah hah hah. But aren’t you making it more complicated with your:

receiving e-mails regarding Walt Whitman during each (not “either”) of two chosen minutes

That’s not actually the situation I described. The situation would be: if a Walt Whitman e-mail came during one minute, what are the odds that another Whitman e-mail would come in the very next minute?

Also, by “three trillionths,” do you mean “three out of a trillion”?

Josh W. replies:

Yes, I was generalizing it by saying any two chosen minutes. The probability is the same whether you are talking about two minutes which are back-to-back, or two minutes which are ten years apart. The important part is that you are selecting those minutes, each of which has a given probability of an event occurring. If I select any two minutes, the chance of them BOTH containing occurrences of the event is the square of the chance of the event occurring during any given minute. And yes, it’s three out of a trillion. Therefore, if you were to select two minutes at random many, may times (much more than one trillion—say, one quintillion, or 1E15), on average you would only return a “TRUE” three times for every trillion random samples.

Josh W. continues:

One caveat. In reply to your last e-mail, if we have already received the first e-mail, then the chances of receiving another Walt Whitman e-mail during the next minute is simply the probability of the event occurring at any given minute, or 1/(365*1440). Past events do not affect future probability.

Irv P. writes:

Those are amazing numbers that Josh has provided you with. However, I have an explanation that I am quite comfortable with, that has nothing to do with mathematical probability.

I had gone to the web site for Frederick’s earlier that day or the day before, and noticed the same line you did, referring to Walt Whitman Road. I actually stopped and thought about Walt Whitman for a moment, something I’ve done once or twice in my 63 years. By actually thinking about him, I sent out some sort of signal in the atmosphere. Your other correspondent picked up the signal, or maybe I picked it up from her, but some things happen that we can’t explain with our finite understanding of what makes life tick. Sending and receiving those signals is what you call synchronicity, but it’s been happening to me all of my life. In fact, stuff like this happens so frequently to me, I’m almost matter of fact about it. GOD has created something for us that we cannot fathom no matter how hard we try. But HE lets us know he’s there with these little events just as a tease.

The “vibes” we send out, change the mathematical calculations completely, rendering them irrelevant.

LA replies:

I use “synchronicity” as an objective description of the phenomenon, without immediately pushing a “higher” explanation, namely that there is a level of causation and interconnection in existence that lies beyond the physical, beyond anything we can see. Of course I believe the higher explanation. But synchronicity—meaningful coincidence—is a way of speaking of it that anyone should be able to accept.

Shrewsbury writes:

Mrs. Shrewsbury was idly wishing one evening last month that she could get some of those old-timey toothbrushes with a hole in the handle for hanging on hooks, nary a one of which she had seen in decades. Two days later, as she is about to depart the house of a couple of girls she is tutoring, the girls’ mother comes up to her and says, “Would you like some of these?” and puts into Mrs. Shrewsbury’s trembling hands some old-timey toothbrushes with holes in the handle. (The lady had ordered a bunch of them by mail because they were made in America and she didn’t want to use toothbrushes from China.)

Last year, Shrewsbury sold a book on engineering by a certain engineer; the next day, he received an order from that engineer.

Okay, that’s just a boring coincidence maybe, but what about this. The old bookseller became aware of a certain phenomenon he thought of as the “Why Hasn’t It Sold Fugue?” where he would become abstracted and gaze at an interesting tome on his groaning shelves, all but insensible to other stimuli, and idly wonder why it hadn’t sold yet. So many times was an instance of these peculiar reveries followed by an order, in the next few hours or the next day, for the same book which had provoked it, that he began to think of the occurrence of the fugue as a definite harbinger of the impending sale of the gazed-at book; but once he became self-conscious about the phenomenon, the effect faded, and the fugue now happens but rarely.

It may be that there are connections and resonances in the universe of which we have formed no conception; a pluck at any point on the string of an instrument will send vibrations all along it.

LA replies:

There are example of the fact that there is a realm of mental—not physical—causation, which we cannot see directly, but we see its undeniable effects and know that it exists. And this is proof that reality is not limited to the material.

Also, I don’t know what you mean here by fugue. “Why Hasn’t It Sold Fugue?” I don’t get it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 07, 2012 04:02 PM | Send

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