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Call for examples of 'coincidences' in physics

  1. Feb 20, 2013 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm working on a short story vaguely concerning a proposed solution to the grandfather paradox where if you went back in time to kill your grandfather, you would be thwarted by a string of coincidences. While I don't believe coincidences are anything more than mental phenomena, for the purposes of the story, I do want to make the case as strongly as I can that they are something more than that. To this end, I've been googling my little heart out trying to find the most convincing example of a 'coincidence' in nature, but all I'm getting is stories about people thinking of someone and then them phoning them up, which is not helpful. So, can anyone give me some examples of the weirdest (or at least seemingly weird) coincidences from any of the physical sciences?

    Thanks very much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2013 #2
    Being possible to describe the universe with concepts our minds make up (as mathematics) is a great coincidence.
  4. Feb 20, 2013 #3
    One story idea I never got round to writing may be of interest.
    Fractals. The notion that everything operates in a fractal manner
    raised to the societal level. This could perhaps be used to "nudge"
    your character away from the event somehow.
    I always thought Asimov's foundation series could be bolstered this way.
    (if it even needed it) which is how I thought of it in the first place.
    Then of course there is the 23 paradox (Ignore the very dumb movie)
    the number does seem to pop up more than just as an "actively" observed
    coincidence in science and elsewhere.
    Robert Shae and Robert Anton Wilson took it to extremes in "The Eye in the Pyramid"
    (if I remember the details correctly) but despite the "Illuminate" overkill there
    could still be a good mine of concepts for coincidence there. (I think it was them that
    created the idea of the "cosmic coincidence control center" or CCCC)
  5. Feb 20, 2013 #4
    I'm not sure this is what you're looking for or not, but the two coincidences I find salient in Nature both involve the moon. The first is the fact that the moon and the sun are so positioned relative to the earth such that the moon can just about perfectly eclipse the sun as seen from the earth. Despite their vast difference in size they subtend the same angle as seen from earth. The other is that the moon's period of rotation is in a ratio to it's orbit around the earth such that we always see only one side of it and never the other.

    Is that the sort of thing you meant?
  6. Feb 20, 2013 #5

    jim hardy

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    Hmmm i remember a fascinating 1970's TV series "Connections"...about coincidences in history that led to today's technology

    you might peruse this and see if it's of interest to you..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series [Broken])


    Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung discussed coincidence while Pauli was his patient, search on pauli jung letters.

    good luck - sounds interesting !
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Feb 20, 2013 #6
    Try "coincidences of math" google search maybe. Physics and hard science are typically oriented around objective quantifiable aspects and not so much mystical connections.

    Math and geometry probably have some coincidences, and probably some aspects of calculus are coincidental. As the poster above mentioned math is an abstract notion invented by man. Maybe you can make a case there to support your argument. Concepts like the gravitational constant (6.67x10^-11) and obviously pi and aspects of circles. Avogadro's number (6.02x10^23). Also, try and find a way to use schrodinger's experiment in your argument. It's a paradox anyone can appreciate, maybe there is a coincidence involved.

    Maybe it's a coincidence that we can sniff out and assign values for strong, weak, EM, and gravity but they do not connect together in any sort of beautiful way (in contrast with many other mathematical concepts) is it a coincidence that no such connection has been made yet?
  8. Mar 1, 2013 #7
    I've read a short story like this back in the 60's. Somebody is fated to be shot. They to prevent this, then something unlikely happens so he gets shot anyway. It gets more and more unlikely. Eventually the guy is hit by a bullet-sized meteor, and they give up. Nothing they can do about that.

    There's something in the Hitchhiker's Guide in which the hero jumps out of a window and someone just happens to be flying by. He drops into a empty seat.

    As to real physical laws, its amazing that Newton's theory of gravity works as well as it does when it's based on a wrong model. Huge coincidence.
  9. Mar 3, 2013 #8
    There are no coincidences in math. All coincidences are hints of a deeper underlying structure that explains the coincidences.
  10. Mar 3, 2013 #9
    That is a great example. Another great example in the news now is the Russian meteor and asteroid 2012 DA14 closest approach occurring on the same day.

    Bob Clark
  11. Mar 3, 2013 #10
    Your mentioning of Asimov brought to mind one of his short stories called "No connection!"
    I can't remember what events the non-human (though of Earth!) scientists forced themselves to believe were just a coincidence, but the story is available here:

    No Connection.

    Bob Clark
  12. Mar 4, 2013 #11
    My suspicion about this is that both lumps of rock (or whatever) are somehow related -
    perhaps debris from a collision at some point that got thrown into similar paths or perhaps
    a small lump broke off the asteroid and was flung at us.

    The odds of them being totally unconnected seem pretty high to me - but then I guess
    a coincidence can happen.

    OR - to come back round and eat my own tail - a coincidence is just two related
    events we can't fathom the connections to.
  13. Mar 4, 2013 #12
    Nice site for Asimov fans. Thanks for the link.
    I had forgotten all about resublimated thiotimoline. I must pop out and buy some...
    Now all I need is a source for the gnurrs ("The gnurrs come from the voodvork out"
    being a phrase that has bugged me for decades it seems)
  14. Mar 4, 2013 #13
    I like that description.

    Bob Clark
  15. Mar 5, 2013 #14
    I wonder if I should mention the Arisians at this point?
    (EE Doc Smith)
  16. Mar 6, 2013 #15
    I don't know if this works for you but

    Venus's 583.92-day interval between successive close approaches to the Earth is equal to 5.001444 Venusian solar days, making approximately the same face visible from Earth at each close approach. Whether this relationship arose by chance or is the result of some kind of tidal locking with the Earth is unknown.
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