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Beyond Coincidence [Paperback]

Martin Plimmer , Brian King
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2005
Now out in paperback - a fascinating exploration of the uncanny world of coincidence, it includes nearly 250 incredible stories, of which 40 are new to this edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Although this book is filled with amusing (and not so amusing) anecdotes, there's remarkably little holding it together. The authors begin by attempting to provide some context for thinking about coincidences, but the arguments are both breathlessly superficial and disjointed, ranging from omens and oracles to the role of coincidence in literature, with a cursory discussion with British mathematician and skeptic Ian Stewart on why most coincidences aren't that surprising from a statistical perspective. The authors, London-based journalists, waver between fully discounting the stories they tell and finding them utterly mysterious. The authors write, "It is not possible to guarantee the absolute authenticity of every story in this book. Coincidence stories are often exaggerated, distorted and—God help us—invented." So what are we even talking about? Couple this with the fact that some of the anecdotes are simply interesting stories—one explaining a stock market scam, for example—that have nothing to do with coincidence, and readers are left with the impression that nothing mysterious is being discussed and certainly nothing is being analyzed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Two British journalists relay stories about bizarre coincidences. Whether a fan catches two foul balls in one game or a history buff fixates on similarities between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, human psychology resists consigning the facts to randomness. It's more satisfying, comforting, or aggrandizing to ascribe mysterious cosmic privilege to the one person out of millions who wins the lottery five times in succession. Most people will not do the math of probability (amusingly explained in Edward Burger and Michael Starbird's Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz, 2005). Plimmer and King accept that there's nothing more than chance at work in coincidental occurrences, but they revel in our common amazement over them. Piling anecdotes on high, the authors loosely categorize coincidences by type, such as weird facts about crimes and accidents and bumping into long-lost acquaintances on the street. Plimmer and King are fun, verbally agile guides who can entertain the credulous and skeptical alike. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars What the hell do we know, anyway?!! Nov. 23 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascinating review of the gamut from merely humourous to astonishing "coincidences" which raise the question of whether there may not be some mysterious light-hearted or malicious intentionality underlying some of these stories. Food for thought.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but.... Jan. 23 2006
By Atheen M. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Beyond Coincidence tends to jump from topic to topic with less focus than I would have expected from a journalist. Essentially it is a compendium of short stories that stretch the credulity of the reader and point out the difference between a miracle and a coincidence (the former being something that is not possible but happens, the latter something that has a low probability of occurring but does). Then Mr. Plimmer delves into quantum and relativity physics--and into Einstein's religious beliefs, always a signal of something "spooky" to come. In the end, one can't determine the actual theme of the book. Is one to believe that a "higher power" or some mysterious unifying "force" binds the universe and its constituents to one another in some mystic way? Or is it all just a cut and dried toss of a coin, heads you win, tails you lose?

I realize that the reader is supposed to do some of the work him or herself, to put a little thought into the material, but the nebulous character of the theme leaves one wondering what the point of the book was. If it was to instruct, there are probably better-albeit less entertaining books-out there. If it was simply intended to entertain, it was highly successful. Having read on the topic before, I had to smile at some of the stories; they certainly reveal why people are so utterly and irresistibly amazed by coincidence.

One of the best aspects of the book is that it suggests why we think as we do about coincidences: its a natural point of view that lead to human survival in a time before experiemental science was even possible. It's also natural by virtue of the fact that humans love a good, memorable story, and that sets us up to extract a skewed sample from the environment. The author's account of the pidgeons and the students responding to neutral stimuli as though they were reinforcements of whatever behavior was exhibited just before them are classic examples.

I can't decide to whom I'd recommend the title. A novice to the concepts of coincidence and miracles would probably come away with a rather confused notion of what was intended. At times the author seems to refute the science, which might lead one to believe that science has it "wrong." Especially when a writer refers to Einstein's "religion" in this context, it almost invites the wrong impression. For those who already do understand something of the math behind coincidences, the book might be too anecdotal. For those of us who just enjoy an amusing read, it's really very entertaining.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Anecdote after anecdote... Oct. 19 2006
By Danni Akers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This work starts out as a pretty interesting read, but after chapter 5, it's just anecdotes of rare events. These, although amusing at first, quickly become predictable and boring. One must also wonder about the technical competence of the authors. On page 103 William Harston is quoted as estimating the probability of an amateur golfer having a hole-in-one as 1 chance in 43,000. He also estimates that 200 million rounds of golf are played annually. From this, the author(s) extrapolate that the expectation of two golfers having hole-in-ones, back-to-back, on the same hole, as being about once per year. I'm not sure how they came to this conclusion given the data. In fact, based on the Harston data, the macroscopic expectation of this unlikely event, is more like once every 2.3 years, given, on top of the Harston data, that typically only 4 holes of any 18 round are credible hole-in-one candidates.

So, if you're looking for a book delving into the technical, probabilistic, back-ground of rare coincidences, this is not it. If you just want to pump your head full of tale after tale of rare coincidences, then you might be satisfied.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The safe place! Nov. 19 2006
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Coincidence is a diffused term that is part of our quotidian lexicon. And so there are many ways in order to face those curious destiny's ironies that seem to play and challenge us from time to time. As appropriately the authors state the coincidence is warm matrix that makes us to feel comfortable and relatively safe from this complex, stressing and changing world. I know of many people who refuse to leave their homes without consulting their personal horoscopes or read what the Tarot has decided for them that day; those micro destinies seem to be guided by invisible random whirlwinds that helps them to maintain an artificial balance in their lives.

But there is another level, much major and transcendental: it has to do with those incidents that hardly may find a reasonable explanation. These authors made a very respectable compendium of a set of veridical coincidences, occurred along all these years. Myth or superstitious? Random incidents or predetermined events dictated by a Supreme design? Butterfly effect or the tragedy's spirit that still nestle hidden behind the shadow of the fortuity?

If you are an avid reader about these intriguing and mysterious issues, you will have made a brilliant choice in case to acquire this book.

Recommended.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific look at the failures of the law of probability Dec 27 2005
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a terrific look at the failures of the law of probability as the authors provide over two hundred seemingly random events that appear impossible yet are documented as occurring. The included anecdotal are fun to follow though many are macabre like the sisters driving on separate surprise visits to one another crashing into each other or the three unrelated Birds crashing their three vehicles with one another. The stories grip the reader who wonders what next can happen, but hope not to them. Fans will ponder if the new age pseudoscience intelligent design has validity as the hands behind the improbable described real happenings. However, before the claims are made that this tome makes physics doctrine of intelligent design, let's not ignore that some of the outcomes of the events must have been made by an ironic stand-up comic using people as cosmic jokes. When Composer Osborne asked poet Raine if he wanted to collaborate on an opera based on a Pasternak work if they gave permission, the latter said yes, had the book in hand to read before the call and had permission since his wife is the author's niece. Believe it or not this collection is no coincidence that it is a fascinating fun analysis of the impossible happening inside a chaotic world that leads to the odds of a demand for a sequel quite high.

Harriet Klausner
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Coincidences March 16 2006
By Robert Durvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book lists two authors. One of them is a fairly good writer. The other tends to wander aimlessly. You will be able to tell which one is which as you go from one chapter to the next. ( It looks like they took turns. ) Some of the coincidences sited in the book as actual historical events have, upon further internet research, been found to be urban legends or myths. However, if you are intriqued by coincidences in your own experience of life then you will enjoy this book.
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