(Submitted by reader Timothy Vizthum)
After high school, I worked at a camp during one summer. While there I met my first girlfriend, though we only dated for a few months. Three years later, I volunteered for a NGO in Israel that worked with Palestinian refugees. Although the NGO usually has 30 or so volunteers, this was 2002 and with the uptick in violence, there were only 3 other volunteers, a Swede, a Swiss woman, and another American. Over the course of the 5 months that we were there I found out that the American woman was not only from the same town as my first girlfriend, but had even graduated from the same high school in the same year.
After coming back home and starting college at UC Santa Barbara, I was in church talking with this friend, who turns out was also from the same town and graduated from the high school, in the same year.
A few years past that I attended my brother’s wedding. As my wife and myself began talking to this other couple, we found out that, she had attending the same high school and graduated the same year. There were only thirty people at this wedding.
The town were my former girlfriend had attended has about 900 students in grades 8-12. The community it is in is a hour or so outside Fresno on the way to Yosemite. What are the odds of meeting up randomly with this many people from the same high school?
Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 219. Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.
The author is talking about the odds of meeting people at any time, which is impossible to quantify since the number of people we encounter depends on our activities, where we live, and a number of other factors.
I would note that most of us would be very surprised by the number of common facts the people we encounter share with each other and ourselves if a full inventory could be had. How many people does the author meet each week or month? And, more importantly, how many people does the author talk to and what do they talk about? There are probably much more interesting coincidences that were never discovered.