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!

Ran into family friend at the perfect time in new city

I had moved to New York City. A couple of months before. Things were not going well financially and I didn’t know if was going to be able to cut it. I had just paid my rent and I had $3 to my name and no food in my apartment. Figured I would eat a candy bar for dinner. I was leaving work and heading to the train near Times Square looking at my phone and I almost literally walk into my fathers lifelong friend who was visiting from over 4 hours away. He invited me to dinner and treated me to a burger fries and beer. And gave me $40 for food until my next paycheck. I often wonder how I would have fared if it wasn’t for this opportune coincidence.

My step father’s mother died

My mother and step father are Rob and Cheri Robson. In New Orleans we met and became friends with a couple named Rob and Cheree Robinson. Both Rob’s mothers died the same week of the same illness.

A Perfectly Timed Phone Call

A few years ago as summer break was beginning I took a trip to see extended family in China. I had not informed my friends of the exact dates that I would be away, only that I would be gone for about the first chunk of summer break. Obviously, I would also not have regular cellular phone service due to being halfway around the world. Fast forward to my return home, our plane had landed on the runway not even five minutes before I receive a phone call, right as I regain connection to my local phone service. It is my friend - while hanging out with another friend of mine, he decided on a whim to call me just to see if I happened to be around, completely unaware of my travel schedule and if I was even in the country. Somehow, he managed to phone me at near-precisely the moment I touched the ground, the moment I was capable of receiving his phone call. To make things even weirder, it was his first attempt at calling me since summer break began. We were both freaked out by this coincidence, given that he could have called me at any moment nearly 2 months prior and not have gotten through. But it just so happened that he threaded the telecommunication needle at the perfect time.

First s job, then a house

I moved from Oregon to Washington seven years ago after getting a job doing admin support at a college. The person I replaced had been there her whole career before retiring, and so for the 3 years I was there I was known as "the new Pat". I left that position but stayed in the area, and a few years later purchased my first house. This year I was on the assessor's website looking at various data points for my property. I came across a list of previous owners, and one of the names listed looked very familiar. I did some digging and it turns out, the person listed is Pat's husband. So, not only did I move up here and assumed Pat's old job, but I also bought a house she'd lived in. They were the owners right before the people I'd purchased from.

Finding family friend in a park on the other side of the world.

I’m from a low-income rural village in the Northern USA. Many people from my hometown have never left the state, much less the country. While traveling to Ireland in 2019, my group decided to walk a little hidden garden path. We walked by two people and my husband pointed out that they had similar accents to mine. I stopped them to ask where they were from. Turns out they were from my hometown and had even worked with my dad for over a decade. They had moved away years before for a job opportunity, which is why I didn’t know them. Just proves that if you are from a small town, you can’t go anywhere without the chance of being recognized (and possibly snitched) on by a family friend.

Twin connection

I was watching a movie on Netflix in bed after getting a flu shot when my identical twin sister texted me to say hi and ask what I was up to. I told her and she said she was watching a movie too, and that she had gotten her flu shot the day before. I asked her what she was watching and it was the same movie I was watching! (Called “Carol,” about a pair of women in the 1950s who have an affair). I was 15 minutes ahead of my sister in the story.

Neighbor I knew so much about but never met

Growing up my mom used to talk about this guy she dated before my dad. His name was Chip. That wasn't a nickname, just his name. She said he was great. I knew lots about his family, even having never met him because of how they went to the same school and grew up visiting each other's houses. After they broke up, she got together with my dad and Chip a girl from a different school. Both new significant others didn't like the idea of ex's hanging out and so they lost track of each other. Over the next 27 years many thing happened. I was born, we moved around a lot. My mom never heard from or saw chip again. When I was 25, my husband and I purchased a house. This house was 3 hours u to the country, away from the city area my mom lived as a kid. We went around meaning the neighbors and one of them was named Chip. Not a nickname, just his name. I kinda chuckled and said I had only ever heard of that not being a nickname one other time, this guy my mom dated before I was born. He laughed and said, well what's your mom's name? Turns out, it was the same Chip.

Had the same card in mind as my classmate

We were playing a game in class during which we are each given a card from a standard playing deck. Before the game began, my classmate (almost no prior connection, we rarely speak to each other) and I guessed the card which we would draw. We both guessed 6 of clubs simultaneously.

Street Number is everywhere

Might just be that I'm noticing it more and more, but last fall I moved away to college. While there, I found a small used bookstore, and didn't notice until I got home that the street number for the place, 1408, is the same as my parent's house back home. It is also, I discovered, the name of Stephen King short story and adapted film, which take place at a house with the same street number. Ever since that day, I keep seeing 1408 pop up constantly. My phone and watch are on military time, and I randomly check the time only to find out it's 14:08. A math exam had an answer listed as 14.08 units on the answer key. Had a video lecture last year run exactly 14 minutes and 8 seconds. All kinds of small, minor events where I'd notice the number in something randomly, and occurs roughly once every week or 2, give or take. I'm not a superstitious person, but this has been weirding me out for a while now.

Aunts Were Best Friends

When I was an undergraduate student at a large university in the Midwest, I used to take the bus to one of my classes. Another woman also caught the same bus to the same class and eventually we started talking. We sat together in class and became friends. One day as we were walking out of class, we were talking about our parents and both remarked that our last names sounded familiar. We talked more and eventually figured out that her aunt and my aunt were childhood best friends and still close to this day. My dad had a crush on her mom when they were in grade school and the families knew each other well. But I had never met any of them before. We called our aunts and they were laughing as they had apparently joked about how funny it would be if we met at school. Was wild.