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Mathematical Models for Society and Biology, 2nd Edition by Edward Beltrami

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Chapter 6

What Are the Odds of That?

6.1 Background

The spooky quality of coincidences rarely fails to fascinate and confound people who experience them. A recent example was provided by former TV talk host Dick Cavett in his New York Times article of May 8, 2009, called Seriously, What Are the Odds?, which gave rise to the title of this chapter. Cavett was amazed that two people from different parts of the country came together and noticed that their individual automobile license plates were identical. Later, in another piece, called Strange, Dear, but True, Dear (Cavett, [30]), he continued with other tales of eerie happenstance.

What I hope to show in this chapter is that many, perhaps most, coincidences are less amazing than they first appear ...

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