Why coincidences happen

birthday cakeWhen we experience a surprising event and wonder about the likelihood of such a coincidence, we may be able to use probability theory to work out the chance of it happening. And whether the coincidence happens to us or to someone else, we need to take into account how many opportunities there are for it to happen.

Three children with the same birthday?

A recent news story featured a family whose three children had all been born on January 29th. But is this so remarkable?

Maternal death coincidence?

Two women admitted to the maternity unit of the Royal Hampshire hospital on December 21st 2007 died of Streptococcus A infections within two days, one on December 23rd and one a day later. In a BBC News article the hospital said "their deaths appear to be coincidental".
So what is the chance of such an event happening by chance alone?

Risk in the media

Why risk in the media?

headlines from newspaperNo-one can be an expert in every subject. We may have left formal science teaching behind at school, or have continued through university. We may keep up to date by reading scientific periodicals and websites - or just wish we had the time to do so! But as news breaks of yet another scientific discovery, we all start with what the media have made of the story, and how they present it to us.

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