Friday, February 25, 2005

Maybe I'm psychic

It happened again this morning! I opened my eyes and my digital alarm clock showed 7:17, a beautifully symmetric number. I've had this idea for a while that almost every time I consciously check the time, I find myself looking at a symmetrical number. It could be 7:17, 9:39, 10:01, 16:16, 12:21 ... you get the drift I'm sure. My conclusion is that I'm psychic - obviously!
"But wait a minute" says the more scientific half of my brain, "If you really want to prove this hypothesis shouldn't you first calculate the percentage of symetrical numbers that would appear in a 24 hour day?". "Of course, of course" says the scientist. A quick mental flip through the hours convinces me that symmetry in the digital numbers is surprisingly common. I can, with no bad conscience, ignore 00:00, but what about 1:01, 1:11, 1:21, 1:31, 1:41, 1:51, 2:02, etc, etc, etc. Forget about statistics then. I'm already convinced that maybe it's not very unusual to come across symmetrical numbers on a digital clock and that sadly I'm not psychic after all.
It was a nice thought though and now I find myself wishing that I hadn't spoilt a beautiful illusion with simple facts.

All this talk of numbers and statistics reminded me of my favourite of the many quotes around that throw aspertions at the reliabilty of statistical methods. This one is attributed to Mark Twain, Most people use statistics the way a drunkard uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination. It always makes me smile.


Blogger balorok said...

That made me laugh.

11:48 AM  
Blogger tim said...

I'm sad enough to check the tachometer in the car everytime for the same - and I know the odds of all the numbers being different...

11:07 AM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

Hi balorok, yours was my first ever blog comment. Thanks for making it a nice one.

Hello tim, it's not sad ... tell me it's not sad.

4:57 PM  

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