Searching for patterns in randomness, and finding magic

As I ran that day, I considered the odds of all the maple seed heads landing with the head facing north.  It sure seemed like the majority of these helicopter like pods had ended up pointing north.  (No picture, as I kept waiting for a good sunny shot but never got one.)

Considering the concept though, led me to wonder if it is human nature, or just my nature, to look for patterns, then find examples to suit the pattern and wean out the instances that do not coincide with the pattern.  

Going back to check it out tomorrow-I wrote at the time.

Also, I wanted to see what the web had to say on my contemplation. (Could there be a force that guides maple seeds thus?  Apparently not.)

Of course, thinking about the odds, I was reminded of my lesson in the differences between probability and possibility from a trip to  Galiano Island.

I had bought socks as gifts for the six women, each with a different saying.  I wrapped them all in envelopes and packed them in a stack in my suitcase.  On the first evening, after we’d had a few drinks, I went upstairs to get the socks and on my way back downstairs, I dropped one envelope and then just held them all together.  I made my announcement that I wanted to give each person a little memento then started handing them out, person on my left, first.  Lo and behold, it was Jane, and hers was the top envelope.  Next, was Sarah, and her envelope was second.  At this point, I commented on how amazing if was that they were in the right order and then, incredibly, continued to pass the socks to Aileen, then Cali, then Jo and finally Lori and all the envelopes were in the right order, based on where each person had chosen to sit.

I was astonished at the chances that this might happen but the others were a little more concerned with opening the gifts and comparing the messages.  It seemed even more significant to me because the messages on the socks were so personal, but really that had nothing to do with it.  

Again, I’m looking for patterns where none exist.

What a hoot-in teacher worlds-it was the next night, however, to sit in the back seat on our way home from dinner and listen to a math teacher, Jo, explain to me that what had happened was a perfect example to illustrate probability and that the probability of such an occurrence could be calculated as one in seven hundred and something.  

Today as I ran on the crust in a field of starlight (well, the App helped) I wondered again about the chances of the universe doling out just what I needed just when I needed it.


2 thoughts on “Searching for patterns in randomness, and finding magic

  1. Hugh & Jan Naylor says:

    Lisa – My take on the maple seed thing

    The seed comes twirling down, lands head (heavy end) down flops over, randomly? Not if there is a north breeze blowing, as has been the case lately. Oh oh . just rained on your parade. Feeling badly.

    Years ago – at a touring Banff mountain film festival, Whistler, intermission door prise draw, I mention to my companion that my daughter had won this prize a couple of weeks previously in Nelson, simultaneously the arm goes into the box and guess whose number he was holding …magic? I like to think so.



    • Lisa Richardson says:

      Hu, i go with magic on that. That’s a good story.

      Thanks for commenting. And for giving me the chance to realize I hadn’t properly attributed this post to Connie, when I posted it.

      Hopefully, she’s not as devastated as I am by your scientific explanation/debunking of the seed heads. although we still have migration and homing instincts to keep us pondering.


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