RE: Another tedious hypothetical

From: rmiller <>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 00:42:00 -0500

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

>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.

Received on Mon Jun 06 2005 - 02:01:14 PDT

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