Update on Mr. Hopkins

probchartFor this post I have to prep you with some math, and then a bit of probability.

Fact: there are just under 2.6 million seconds in a 30-day month.

Thus, if an improbable event has a one-in-a-million chance of happening, and if any such event can happen within one second, then each month ought to contain 2.6 improbable events. (This is why I ran into two college friends in Athens, Greece, and why a distant relative with my exact name has a similar teaching job in Switzerland.)

UnknownSo, here’s one of this month’s improbable events (although, to be fair, it happened several years ago): the Mr. Hopkins who is mentioned in Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It (see my review here) is NOT a reference to an obscure 1939 book of speculative fiction. Pfeffer’s use of that name is pure coincidence.

How do I know? Because I emailed her, and she replied.

Thank you, Ms. Pfeffer, for your quick response. And I must agree with your final comment: “Ah, the mysteries of creation!”

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
This entry was posted in Probability, Science fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Update on Mr. Hopkins

  1. Dylan Hearn says:

    How wonderful that she replied. I love probability. Another favourite misunderstanding of probability is that if there is a 1 in 10 chance of something happening, and it doesn’t, then it must mean it’s now a 1 in 9 chance. It was this misconception that built Las Vegas

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Dylan — I spent many years believing that everything has a 50/50 chance of happening: either it will or it won’t. Not a good strategy for Vegas, but it certainly minimizes the daily need for higher math.

      I hoped Ms. Pfeffer would reply, but I hadn’t expected to hear from her so soon — only 2 days! I hope I’m that quick with my own fan mail, if I ever get any.

  2. calmgrove says:

    Synchronicities, coincidences, chance, fate — whatever we choose to call those moments in life where matters that we rate as significant intersect — are all part of human desire to make sense of patterns we perceive.

    I watched an interesting doc on psychology last night discussing inter alia ‘confirmation bias’, where we look for patterns that match our expectations and ignore those that don’t. A useful survival instinct but not foolproof…

    Still love the synchronicities though! That appeals to the poet/artist/writer in all of us.

    • Lizzie Ross says:

      Long ago I had a conversation with an astronomer friend who envied my ability to look at the starry night sky and NOT see all the lines marking the constellations. Our need to see patterns may sometimes hide the bigger picture.

      And re ‘confirmation bias’: see Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, which is all about that bias.

      • calmgrove says:

        Emily is an applied psychologist so of course knew all about behavioural bias, but while I had an inkling of the tussle between the cognitive and the instinctual mind it was good to have it spelt out. Thanks for the Gould reference!

        Consellation patterns: though we had a clear night last evening I was unable to spot the aurora which had been visible as far south as southern England the night before. But up here in the sticks we at least have dark skies, and the Plough, Orion and the Pleiades are all easy to spot. Other cultures of course have different lines joining up stars for different signs; and even the Big Dipper is not quite the same as our Plough nor the extra stars that make up Ursa Major, or maybe even Arthur’s Wain, an older alternative name for the Plough.

        Isn’t a little knowledge marvellous, as well as being dangerous?!

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