Posted: Dec 19, 2018 8:39 pm
by zoon
scherado wrote:..
Probably from seeing the movie Contact, I thought that any, "sign," would be Mathematical in theme; that it would be an event so improbable as to have an incomprehensibly small likelihood of occurring. I experienced such a thing. Or did I? You decide.

It was 2007. The event involves a well-used, 25-year old, 1009-page, soft-cover dictionary. I was driving home from work and heard a man on the radio use a word and I did not know it's definition and that I must look it up when I got home. I forgot about the whole thing and found myself reposed on my couch when I thought about the word. Within reach lay the dictionary on a coffee table. I thought this would be a perfect chance to contrive an opportunity for a "sign," as opposed to a passive observation of a sign.

In other words, I set the stage, defined the terms. They were: I would close my eyes and attempt to open the 1009-page dictionary to the exact page of the word's definition. I may have attempted such a thing a few dozen times over my life, but with my eyes open: all those previous occassions were simply attempts at saving time and, hence, I estimated by sight where I ought to open whatever dictionary I had. Yet, adding the eyes-closed criterion for this experiment does not accomplish much: The current subject word was a c-word so I knew that it's entry would be approximately somewhere after the first 75 pages and not in the last 2/3 of the book. How could I actually make this meaningful knowing where the word would not be found, even doing it blind? Having gone this far, I thought, "What the hell...," and did the best I could.

It's not hard to guess -- there wouldn't be a story to tell otherwise -- that I did open the dictionary to the exact page, to the bleeping word.


Having never, ever done this successfully, I was a bit taken aback....

You say that you have played this game "a few dozen times", and that each time you open the dictionary approximately where the word would be. I've had a go, with some googling, at calculating an approximation to the odds of getting it right at least once. Suppose that the chance of getting it right on any one occasion is 1/100: that is, that you choose somewhere in the 100 pages of the dictionary which would have the word (e.g. opening somewhere between page 60 and 160 for a word beginning with c). Suppose that you have played this game 100 times (you say "a few dozen"). The formula for tossing a die with m sides n times which my googling reached is 1-(1-1/m)^n: this formula, if I understood the helpful poster on the mathematics stack exchange correctly, gives the chance of getting a particular one of the m sides at least once in n tosses. (The link is here, the last of the 5 answers.) Putting 100 in for both m and n in this formula got me 0.63... In other words, after 100 tries your chance of getting it right at least once is better than half. So I don't see your story as an improbable one? If anything, your run of never getting the right page after a few dozen tries was starting to look like bad luck? Somebody here may well demolish my highly inexpert statistics.