Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery and Mathematics Behind Them

Martin Plimmer, Author, Brian King, Author
Martin Plimmer, Author, Brian King, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $23.95 (277p) ISBN 978-0-312-34036-0
Reviewed on: 11/21/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-1-84046-618-8
Paperback - 277 pages - 978-0-312-36970-5
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4668-5229-7
Hardcover - 292 pages - 978-1-84046-534-1
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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. (Jan. 10)

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