(Submitted by reader Andrew Law)
To start with, I live in New Zealand which is important to know for this story.
When I was 11 years old my family and our good friends who lived a couple of houses down the street, took a once in a lifetime trip to Disneyland in LA. We took a week off school to do this.
We were all having a ball in Disneyland as to be expected, when it was time to have some lunch outside of the park; so we jumped on the mono-rail.
After sitting down I looked up and sitting on the seat opposite was the teacher from the class next to mine back in NZ, and who also happened to be the teacher of the friend that was with me! As you can imagine he asked my friend why he wasn’t in school.
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 215. Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary.
It seems that we all have an amazing travel story like this one. On the one hand, it is possible that all of the parties were prompted to consider visiting Disneyland by the same advertisements or because someone else in their town visited and that may increase the probability of such an occurrence by a great deal. The distance between New Zealand and Los Angeles increases the shock of such an event as well. On the other hand, the odds are still pretty astronomical that they would visit the same immensely crowded place at the same time and enter the monorail in the same place at the same time. I am always amazed by these stories and I often wonder how many times I passed by someone I know while far from home and just didn’t see them. As with other travel stories like this, I can only say that it would be unusual if we did not experience many low-probability events in our lifetime.
On a less serious note, is anyone else wondering why the teacher wasn’t in school?
Barbara Drescher is a cognitive psychologist and statistician. Visit her blog ICBSEverywhere. As a lecturer at California State University, Northridge, Barbara primarily taught courses in quantitative/experimental research methods and topics in cognitive psychology. She currently serves as educational programs consultant for the James Randi Educational Foundation.
(Submitted by reader Nick Ward)
Listening to your segment on Skepticality reminded me of a TOMBC micro-moment:
In high school, my friends and I were very nerdy, so we timed our watches to the beginning and ending bells for classes. Near the end of class one day, a teacher was mocking us, saying: “You guys don’t time your watches to the bell do you?! Like you sit there and say ‘3, 2, 1…’…” and right after he said “one” aloud, the bell rang.
We all sat around dumbfounded for a few seconds and then burst out laughing. My guess is that, since we were at the end of class, we were at least within 60 seconds of the bell, so we’d be looking at a 1.6% chance (at worst) that the second he chose would be the moment of the bell.
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 199. Take a look and leave your comments below.
The author of this story recognized at least part of what makes this story easy to explain. I am sure that it was absolutely hilarious when it happened, but it is one of those things which is more expected than unexpected.
The author doesn’t state what prompted the teacher’s comment, but I suspect that the teacher noticed one or more of them looking at their watch(es). As a teacher myself, I was often very distracted when, with about 5 minutes to go, students began to pack up their belongings. And when one student did it, others followed. Pretty soon the whole class has that “it’s time to go” feeling and students start walking out the door while I continue to lecture.
So, the chances that the bell would ring at any moment precise enough to be as funny as this was is actually very, very high.
(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)
I was at Atlanta’s annual Dragon*Con in 2011, waiting in a very long line with about two thousand fans to see a viewing of the latest Doctor Who episode, which had not yet been shown in the U.S. Dragon*Con has an estimated 40-50 thousand people who attend for the Labor Day weekend. For about an hour we waited as fans came walking past, dressed in various Science Fiction and Fantasy-based costumes. Some of these costumes are very elaborate, and always in good fun.
I befriended the people I was standing next to; there were a few Amy Ponds, a Princess Leia, various incarnations of The Doctor, and a pretty woman in a belly dancer outfit. The belly dancer turned out the be a real belly dance teacher, named Lisa, with a very interesting and memorable story of how she started dancing and teaching. The line finally went in and we all went our separate ways inside the theater.
Poster of Lisa, the Belly Dancer
Two days later, we were visiting Asheville, NC, and walking through the charming downtown area. In the window of a store, I saw a poster for belly dance lessons. The teacher? The same woman I had met in line in Atlanta, 160 miles away, in a crowd of thousands.
[EDITOR: Pssh, wearing your work uniform as a costume is SO cheating. Reminds me of the time I auditioned for the role of a Blockbuster (remember those?) employee for an episode of Entourage. When I arrived it turned out to be what we call a cattle call (TONS of actors for one role), and several of them arrived in their ACTUAL Blockbuster uniforms. But the joke was on them in the end. – Jarrett]
(Submitted by reader Daniel L)
When I was in kindergarten some 20 years ago, I became close to one of the ladies working there and she was my favorite teacher of them all.
When I was in the 8th grade (about 9 years later) my favorite teacher showed up in my dream for the first and only time since I went to kindergarten. Later that very same day when I was riding my bike home from school, who do you think I run into on the sidewalk, if not, my old kindergarten teacher.
To this day, I’ve carried this story with me as a perfect example of a “one in a million event”. Although I am a statistician by education, and can point to several high-probability factors in this story to increase the odds a bit, I still think it’s a really cool story.
[EDITOR: I’ll refrain from speculation as to what happened in the dream.]