This particular posting appeared in Dilbert blog of Scott Adams.
Coincidence Threshold Jul 16, 2010 | General Nonsense | Permalink You probably saw the story about the woman who won the lottery for the fourth time. Some say the odds of that are 1 out of 18 septillion. I think almost everyone who reads this blog assumes it wasn't luck, and that there was some criminal activity involved. But it made me wonder if humans have some sort of innate and similar view of where coincidence fails as an explanation. Let's test that. Let's say a mysterious man appears at your door and tells you that you have a special power. If you write the name of a person on a piece of paper and put it in a sock overnight, that person will die. You try it once out of curiosity, picking the name of some scoundrel from the news so you won't feel bad if it works. And sure enough, that person dies of a heart attack that very night. Your first thought might be that as a general rule, scoundrels live risky lifestyles. You might have gotten lucky on that one. So you try it again the next night with a new name, and that person is also dead by morning. You try it twenty times, never telling anyone else of your experiment, and each time it works before sunrise the next day. You can imagine a variety of explanations for your experience. You might be crazy, or dreaming, or experiencing selective memory. Maybe the mysterious man who told you of this method is somehow watching you and putting out the hit order on the name you choose, for reasons that you can't understand. Maybe you're just good at recognizing when people's time has come. Maybe you are part of some sort of science experiment or reality show. Perhaps there are a dozen other explanations. My question to you is this: How many times could you repeat this experiment alone, with whatever controls or privacy you could muster, before you believed your actions were causing specific people to die?
For me it would be somewhere around the fourth person.
Earlier too there were similar posts by him on Freaky happenings, one of which I have reproduced in my own posting titled 'Synchronicity". For some months now, while returning from Cherthala by Aleppey- Chennai express, I travel past Trissur Railway station and get down only at Punkunnam for two reasons. Firstly, I don't have to negotiate the overbridge and secondly my driver can park the car nearby without paying any parking fee. When the train pulls out of Trissur station, I get up and stand by the door of the compartment so that I can quickly get down when the train halts at Punkunnam station. This has been the routine for sometime now. On 11th August, 2010 while standing at the door of the compartment, suddenly for no reason I thought of my train journeys to Mumbai from Madras/Bangalore while on Inspection duties. As the train approached a particular station not very far from Mumbai, the passengers used to pull down the metallic shutters. The precaution was well worth as there was a virtual shower of stones thrown at the train while it approached the station. That was nearly fifteen years ago. I do not remember the name of the station now. While my train was passing under the Kottappuram bridge, I idly speculated that if I stood at the door, a little inside the compartment facing in the opposite direction in which the train was travelling, then the velocity of any missile thrown at me will be reduced by the speed of the train and I might escape any serious injury. On the other hand, if I stood facing in the direction of travel of the train the speed of the train would increase the effective velocity of the projectile and it may cause substantial injury. A little sheepishly I changed sides to comply with my silly reasoning. Nothing happened that day and I got down at Punkunnam station and went home. As I said, that was on the 11th.Aug. Two days later I saw a report in Mathrubhumi about a passenger being hit by a stone. He was travelling by Cannanore-Ernakulam express and he was hit when the train was passing under the Kottappuram Bridge almost exactly at the spot where the random thought came to me a couple of days previously. The stone hit him on the forehead and cracked his skull. He must have been facing the direction of travel of the train and the speed of the train would have given the stone added momentum. What would be the odds? It may not be one in a septillion but certainly it must rank as a very strange coincidence. To add to the odds, the victim's father is a previous employee of Bank of Cochin/SBI whom I know personally. The good news. The boy will survive and may soon be out of the hospital. The Railways should offer a substantial reward for information on the stone thrower. If the reward is adequate, there will be squealers. And if the guy is caught he should be charged with attempted murder. The stone could have killed the passenger.