Math

Calculating The Odds Of Extraordinary Coincidences

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When you hear a character on TV or in movies calculate the odds of something—say, navigating an asteroid field—do you ever wonder where that number comes from? According to mathematician Joseph Mazur, even the odds of bizarre coincidences can be calculated given a small amount of detail, and that increasing detail will usually drive the odds towards 100 percent. In the video below, Mazur shows how a miraculous-seeming story of a woman finding a beloved book in a shop nearly 5,000 miles from her home is actually more likely than getting a four-of-a-kind in poker. Learn why, then see some other strange quirks of real-world mathematics.

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How A Mathematician Dissects A Coincidence

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