At 03:40 PM 6/5/2005, you wrote:
RM writes

> Now, pick one:
> 1. All a Big Coincidence Proving Nothing (ABCPN)
> 2. The writer obviously was privy to state secrets
     and should have been arrested.
> 3. Suggests precognition of a very strange and weird sort.
> 4. Might fit a QM many worlds model and should be investigated further.
> 5. I have no clue how to even address something like this.
> Any takers?
I'll go for 1, all a big coincidence. Firstly, it should be taken
as the default hypothesis. Second, in my opinion no reliable evidence
has ever surfaced that points to precognition, or points to a science
theory that is an elaboration of QM/GR. In fact, numerous claims of
something new are regularly debunked by skeptics, and have picked up
the name (rightly, in my opinion) of pseudo-science.


Given a set of events that are impossible to reproduce (how can the writer re-create the basis for his story a second time?) we can only examine them after the fact in terms of probabilities. Even if we didn't go to a phonebook and look up the relative number of "Silards" or "Lenzes" vs the more common names, it's fairly obvious that the probabilities of this being a chance occurrence are on the order of one in tens of millions. Yet we write this kind of thing off as coincidence. The example I gave, (of course) is a real story titled "Blowups Happen" written by a real sci fi author--Robert Heinlein. Heinlein was asked about the coincidence, and he said he had no idea where he got the names or the idea. The story itself was *was* written in 1939---many years before the Manhattan District Project was even considered by anyone--and before Szilard began work on nukes and before Kistiakowski began work on his "lenses."

Most who have written about this focus on the fact that the story is about a "uranium bomb" at a site in the "Arizona desert." But when one gets into the minutiae is where it gets truly weird. Neither Heinlein in 1939-- nor most journalists who wrote about the coincidences since then--- were aware of the explosive lens issue, nor were they aware that most fission nukes have beryllium neutron reflectors. I'll suspect Heinlein chose the name Korzybski from a semi-famous semanticist from the 1920s and 30s named Alfred Korzybski. But to me, the other coincidences are just too weird to ignore.

LC writes:
In world war II, the FBI did question one man who published a story
involving atomic theory or atomic bombs that had some eerie similarities
to what was top secret. But they determined that it was just coincidence.
I'd be lying if I claimed to be unaffected by that report.

RM replies:
That would be the Clive Cartmill story "Deadline" which appeared in a 1944 issue of Astounding magazine. Actually, atomic bombs were accepted as a possibility since HG Wells' 1914 story "The World Set Free." INMO, the Cartmill story *is* coincidence. The Heinlein story is *truly* weird.


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