You Don't Know What You Don't Know
Let me play with your head. Quick, answer these questions as best as you can:-
A thousand seconds equals about 17 minutes, and a million seconds equals about 11 days. How long is a billion seconds? Is it:
About three months
About three years
About thirty years?
How many people would you need to have in a room to be confident that two of them share a birthday? Is it:
How often would you have to toss a coin for it to be 50/50 that you’ve tossed four heads in a row?
If you buy a lottery ticket 24 hours before the draw, are you more likely to win thelottery or to die?
Carl Sagan said there were about as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on earth. Was he right?
OK, here’s the answers… and why it matters.
1. A million seconds is 11 days… and a billion seconds is 31.7 years! And believe it or not, a trillion seconds is about 31,709 years...
2. All you need is just 23 people in a room for it to be virtually certain that two of them will have the same birthday.
3. Surprisingly, it’s just 11.
4. If you buy a lottery ticket 24 hours before the draw, you’re 100 times more likely to die than to win.
5. Are there as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on earth? Yes – though how much more depends who you ask. Australian scientists did the maths in 2003 and came to the conclusion that there are ten times as many stars as grains of sand
However, according to the BBC radio program there’s only about twice as many stars as there are grains of sand
WHY IT MATTERS
The human brain is really not cut out for big numbers, and our intuitive sense of them is truly terrible. So our ‘common sense’ ideas about how things work, when they involve large numbers, are not to be relied upon – they may be common sense, but that doesn’t make them right.
Further, if you hear a ‘fact,’ it’s well worth checking up to see if it’s right, rather than taking it on trust. (That’s why I’ve supplied sources for each of the statements above.)
You may well be wondering what any of this has to do with Clinical Hypnotherapy. Good question! Well, these surprising facts (at least I hope you found them as surprising as I did) illustrate a simple truth: how we experience the world depends upon how we think about it. I've had someone guess that you'd need 365 people in a room for it there to be two who shared a birthday - so imagine how surprised that person would be to find that happening with less than 25 people there. It would seem like an amazing and unlikely coincidence. And it ain't - but how would you know unless you found out the real odds? Similarly, if you truly believe that by 'manifesting your destiny' (whatever that means, if anything) you're more likely to win the Lotto, then you're likely - and not just likely, but immensely likely - to be headed for disappointment.
PS If you enjoy having your head messed up, as I do, you'll really like this video by my old boss Chris Anderson on TED, which talks about all the questions no-one knows the answers to...