DoppeltedDo you believe in cosmic fate and coincidences?

You may recall that a few months ago, I posted the picture of someone who looked an awful lot like me (Seth’s Blog: Everybody has a doppelganger) So much so that my wife thought it was my picture.

I had never heard of Robert–the picture came from a reader. And that was the end of that.

Until TED last week in Oxford. I entered the auditorium pretty late, and there was just one open seat. I "excused me"d my way to the center and sat down, in the dark. When the lights came up, I looked over to the person sitting next to me, and asked, "Have we met?"

It took us a few minutes, but, you guessed it, it was Robert.

So, was this an amazing coincidence? I mean, what are the chances? One picture posted of a twin in the history of my blog. One seat at Ted…

Of course, that’s the wrong question.

There are a million places I could have had the amazing coincidence of meeting Robert. There are a million people who could have been in the seat next to me that would have amazed me.

It’s only amazing when a coincidence occurs that you predicted BEFORE it happens. If it seems unlikely afterward, it’s just your brain telling you a story. What are the odds of winning the lottery twice? The same as winning it once… IF you start keeping track after you’ve won the first time. The lottery doesn’t know you already won the first time.

As for Robert, he is erudite, wicked smart and doing important work. It’s flattering to be mistaken for him.

PS Nick Davis sends us this fabulous quote:

You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming
here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot.
And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate
ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the
state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight?
    — Richard Feynman
    — From his undergraduate CalTech lectures, 1961