Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University wants to know about your coincidences!

Why? By recording your coincidence stories here, you can help him build a picture of what kinds of coincidences are out there and which ones seem to ‘get to’ us the most. Your coincidence stories can also help him explore the scientific explanations which may account for them – whether by doing the maths to calculate the chances of a coincidence, or speculating on the weird and wonderful workings of our brains.

Coincidences tend to be ‘surprising matches’ – sometimes they are lucky, sometimes unlucky, sometimes just mind-boggling. To help you recall the coincidences that have happened in your life, here’s a list of some common types of coincidence:

  • Surprising repetitions: for instance when you’ve had not contact with someone for ages, then find two connections to them very close together in time. Or when over several years multiple members of the same family are born with the same birthday. Or even a repetition of a really rare event – like winning the lottery twice, or your life being saved twice by the same person!
  • Simultaneous events: for example when two people phone each other at exactly the same time.
  • Parallel lives: such as when two people in a small group find they share a birthday or an unusual name, or when two people discover their lives match each other in bizarre details.
  • Uncanny patterns: imagine picking letters in Scrabble that spell your name.
  • Unlikely chains of events: perhaps you lost your false teeth overboard and found them inside a fish you caught twenty years later?

If anything coincidental has happened to you - anything that made you stop and say "well, what were the chances of that..?" - then please record your story in the form below! Please try to keep your story personal - about you or someone you know. The only thing we'd ask you to steer clear of are premonitions or déjà vu, purely because - whilst fascinating - they're quite common and also difficult to analyse.

You could also tell us about coincidences in the news, but please provide a link to a reliable source!

Title: two or three words that give a simple description of your story, eg ‘old friend’ or ‘birthday coincidence’
Coincidence: tell your coincidence story - and please include plenty of relevant detail (places, dates, numbers etc.) and include your first name if you want.
Email address (optional): please leave an email address, as then we can get in touch to find out more!

All of the information entered below except your email address will be published on this website when you press save

By ticking this box you agree that your email address can be forwarded to Wingspan Productions Ltd, who are making a BBC television programme about Chance and would like to feature Professor David Spiegelhalter's coincidence collection. In doing so you agree that the producers of the programme may contact you directly to ask you more about your story, though whether you decide to help them is entirely up to you. Your details will not be forwarded to any other party or used for marketing purposes.

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telepathy and einstein

My old friend from Oxford emailed me recently a passage from Life and Fate by Grossman, "There is nothing more difficult than to be a stepson of the time; there is no heavier fate than to live in an age that is not your own. Stepsons of the time are easily recognized: in personnel departments, Party district committees, army political sections, editorial offices, and on the street. Time loves only those it has given birth to itself: its own children, it own heroes, it own labourers.

My brain made the coincidence

Once I had a new L reg car which was 10 years old (new to me, not an oxymoron). Just by naturally observing all the cars passing me (when on foot) it seemed that about half of them were an L reg. Obviously it was impossible for half of all cars to be exactly 10 years old, so I started to pay attention to every car that passed: AN LREG, no, no, no, no, no, AN LREG, no, no, no. This illustration shows how my brain noticed all the L reg cars and ignored the rest. I never did measure the actual frequency, I just established it was well below 50%.

Can't be a coincedence type of coincedence

Let's say you meet a service person (person working a register) at a gas station, you see them twice a week every week and you talk to them for a few minutes as you pay for your gas and items. This goes on for 6 months or so. Then you move to another city. Two years later, you see them again, lets say now it's at your bank in your new city (they are a teller) still providing a service for you, and they remember you from two years ago. Is that coincidence or has that happened for a reason? This happened to me.

Small world coincidence

On my Gap year I did Raleigh international in Malaysia. On my expedition of 80 people, three had been to Cambridge, one was a geographer and one was at Downing college. After I left the expedition, I was at a cheap hostel in KL and got talking to a fellow traveller who had done Geography and been at Downing and knew those two people (one well, one not very well).

Black Pearl and the Minions

I was just in the middle of making cartoons with speech bubbles using the Minions characters from Despicable Me whilst watching Pirates of the Caribbean:Curse of the Black Pearl. I had just entered the text into the bubble for one of the Minions to say which read 'Did it work?'. At that very second one of the characters in the Pirate film uttered the words 'Did it work?'.

The 3 C's

A woman started working at my office and introduced herself. We were both surprised we hadn't met before because we knew many of the same people. But neither of us had even heard the other's name. Where things get weird is, my initials are CCC. So are hers. (Her first name is Cara and mine is Claire--I'm keeping the other names private.) We are the same age. She has two daughters and a stepchild.

We meet again

For the past three year I have had class with the same guy. The first two my friends were always telling me that he had a crush on me but I never saw him as more then a friend. Then the third year I stated having a bit of a crush on him, although nothing happened. This year we share 0 classes so I told my self that it was time to move on even though he was still a friend I would barely see him. Then about 200 students from all different science classes were arranged in groups of three-four people and we ended up in the same group. What are the odds of this happening?

You Have My Dream House I Have Yours

When house hunting I fell in love with a refinished Victorian. When we went to bid on it, it had already been bought. I cried, I loved this cute little home, I felt like it was meant for me. There were a few reminisce boxes from the previous owner in the house I live in now. I dismissed & set them aside for years. Then I felt bad come one Christmas & I thought maybe the previous owner would want these items. So I went thru the boxes. I found out the owners last name and googled it. Come to find she lives in the Victorian house I wanted.

19 boys

My wife's family has lots of boys, so the news that our next grandchild will be a girl has caused us to count them up. Since my wife's birth there have been no fewer than 19 successive boys born in her parents' line (she also has two older brothers). Together the three of them have had 7 boys, who in turn have had 12 boys. Fortunately the chances of this happening are easy to calculate - either 1 in 2^19 or 1 in 2^18 if one specifies 'boys' rather than 'same sex', i.e. 1/524288 or 1/262144, impressive numbers either way.

Cakes and pies

I was reading your excellent blog on coincidences, when I stumbled upon a fascinating story about pie. I was considering whether the universe would be able to suststain the numerous contradictions and paradoxes that this would entail (as well as the entertaining notion of mathematical Pi being brought into the story), when all of a sudden, my maths teacher presented me with a cake. It wasn't exactly a pie, but it was close enough. What were the chances of that?????????