Are coincidences really random?

2016-07-02

Coincidences are sometimes mentioned by woo peddlers as being something mystical.  If if you google synchronicity you'll find people saying the universe is trying to communicate to you or some other spiritual significance.


On the other hand there are plenty of people to point out statistically coincidences aren't as unusual an occurrence as many of us might believe. Last night I was looking on Twitter, browsing the internet, reading Reddit and I came across 5 different references to The Simpsons television show within 10 minutes. I know this can probably be explained as not unlikely statistically over the length of an entire lifetime.  There are bound to be things that are very strange but likely to happen at least once over one hundred years or so.


Even knowing this, it definitely feels strange. Perhaps there is something more to it something between random coincidence and the universe trying to speak to us. There's a phenomena in mathematics called twin primes. If you start writing out all of the prime numbers you'll find every once in awhile after many many numbers with no primes, two primes will show up separated only by one even number. It has been proven that no matter how high you count prime numbers will always pair up like this.  No one quite can predict them or explain exactly what's happening but it is simply a result of the nature of the distribution of prime numbers.


Some people speculate that the universe that we live in is really just math. There are no colors, just wavelengths of light, intelligence is simply an emergent property of many atoms working together to run an organism. Consciousness is an emergent property unconscious matter. If the universe behaves all based on the mathematics of a grand unified theory that means our thoughts, the position of the planets and the atoms inside them, everything you see on the news and all your interactions with friends and family are all the result of working out this Grand Unified theory equation. Perhaps in this theory the same way we see fractals in nature and we see golden spirals there is something akin to the twin primes where seemingly related occurrences pop up in our experience from time to time.  Maybe they are not a message from the universe and maybe they are not random coincidences, perhaps it's just some funny math that the universe has worked out.