Cambridge Coincidences Collection

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

Well I Never!

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

How do you know my PIN

Buying several items in Waterstones bookshop, I was rather disconcerted that the sales assistant read out my PIN number when I inserted my card for payment, as in, "That'll be ****, Sir." It just happened that the cost of the goods I had purchased exactly matched my PIN. I didn't feel it would be wise to say, "Hey, that's an amazing coincidence!"

A Winter Coincidence

Earlier this year I was staying at an isolated roadside guesthouse, the Ospizio La Veduta, near the top of the Julier Pass in south-eastern Switzerland. At the pass itself is an odd-looking, roughly cylindrical (but actually quite angular close up) wooden structure around four stories high. It is, it turns out, a cultural centre and performance space. Returning home early on Sunday evening I was flicking through TV channels and came across a performance of Schubert's 'Die Winterreise', and tuned in. I was astonished to find that this performance had been recorded in that very cultural centre on the Julier Pass, and the surrounding snowy landscapes (including a brief glimpse of the Ospizio). Now, seeing a cultural performance from a cultural venue one has visited is obviously not very surprising, so I suppose it is simply the proximity in time of finding this building, of whose existence I was previously unaware, and then arriving home to unexpectedly see it again on my TV screen the very next day.

A Parallel Story...What If?

My dad collapsed with an aortic aneurysm and I rushed from London to Cambridge to be there for him. Three days later, I should have been on my way to work in London to co-ordinate examinations scheduled that morning - but because my Dad was so ill I had to stay in Cambridge. Then news started to filter through - bombs on the London Underground. I got chills down my spine when I learned that one happened on the Piccadilly Line (the line I would have been on); in the first carriage by the doors (every day I got in the first carriage and stood by the doors); at 10 to 9am (around the time I would have been going through Kings Cross). I have always wondered about this... luck, fate, coincidence? My heart goes out to all who were caught up in it.

Geographic coincidence

In the late 1970s I lived in a flat in London. I was friends with an African neighbour and popped in on a regular basis. Work called me to Zimbabwe where I struck up a relationship with a young Spanish African woman who invited me to a party where I met her mother. Whilst chatting we discovered that my London neighbour was this woman's sister. I was having relationships with an auntie and a niece. A flat in London and a young woman in the middle of Africa. What are the chances?


I was reading a secondhand book that I had found on the internet and when flipping through it came across an old bookmark with my name on it (Robin). The telephone numbers on the book mark were not mine though

Thinking of my friend..

While sitting at my desk working this morning, it came to my mind that I had had a dream last night about a friend whom I had grown up with. We were very good friends. We lived on the same street for a long time and then moved and went our separate ways as friends often do. I have not seen her in probably 15 years. I googled her name to see if I could find out where she might be these days. A link to her Mothers recent passing came up (she died 2 weeks ago) came up with an obituary. I haven't thought of her in a very long time and am not sure why I might see her in my dream. I have since reached out to her through the obituary and hope to hear from her so that I can express my condolences personally. I think everything happens for a reason and that having her in my dream brought me to her so that I could say I was sorry to hear of her Moms passing. I would not have known otherwise.

Tunisian holiday

In 2000, we went on holiday to Tunisia. After a few days, we were in the hot tub talking to a young couple we’d seen around the hotel. There was the usual questions of where from? and where work? It turned out we were all from Oxfordshire. They were from Woodstock and we were from Bicester. 13 miles apart. I said I worked in Kidlington and so did her father. I said I worked in a plastics factory, and so did her father. At Moss’? Yes! It turned out that this girl, in a hot tub in Tunisia, was the daughter of a work colleague I worked with on shift.

Random wrong number

I had a voice message from someone from Nat West saying that my mortgage had been approved. Strange because I had never dealt with Nat West and wasn’t applying for a mortgage anywhere. I called the gent back to explain that he had the wrong number, but as I was talking some jogged a memory of his name. So I asked him if he had lived at my current address. After a bit of a pause he said yes and asked me how I knew that. “Because I bought your house” I confirmed.

Sex sequence

My mother was one of three sisters who each had children. Each of the three sisters had a girl, followed by a boy. Four of these six children, two girls and two boys, themselves had children. Each of these four children had a girl, followed by a boy. Of these eight children, so far one has had a girl, followed by a boy; and one has had a girl. From 1944 to 2015 and spanning three generations, the parents within this entire branch of a family have each had only a girl followed by a boy in a total of seven parents plus one parent with a girl only-child at the time of posting.

Potentially life-saving

It was a few years ago now but I still can't believe I was where I was when this happened. My mother became ill, and if I hadn't have been with her... well I'm not sure. I was commuting to and from the university in Aberdeen at the time, and it was a 2 hour journey for the train part alone. Heading home, I missed my usual train just after 1pm, and had to wait for the next one, which was around 3pm. A stop before my home (F) station, they told everyone getting off at the current stop (E), and there would be a bus for us. Now, I couldn't cope with the bus. So I called my mother to ask for a lift, and she said she'd pick me up as she was on her way to E anyway, even though it was 45+ minutes from her work, 25 of which took her past our home. When she did arrive between 5-10 minutes after I got off the train, she was incredibly unwell. She's also very stubborn and insisted she didn't need me to call an ambulance, or to go to A&E. She did need to go. She nearly died.