September 1st, 2017
Fun facts and the odds against being born
I've just added another fact to the Fun Facts page. After recently reading an online article about the probability of being born I felt it deserved a bullet point in the facts' section of our website.
I've always been interested in fun and so-called interesting facts and there's many online websites that have them in their hundreds. I find it interesting that Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the Internet than she did to the building of the pyramids. I've also officially discovered many urban legends are not true - carrots aren't the miracle food for your eyesight after all, and we all know that the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, don't we? And then there's awesome (sic) facts such as the dot over the letter 'i' is called a tittle, the word dinosaur didn't exist before 1841, and it's impossible to lick your own elbow (it's hard not to try when you read that fact however mature you are). However, the fact that's always most blown my mind most (even if the Loch Ness Monster is found to be true tomorrow!) is the statistical miracle of you and I being born.
If you look up the odds on winning the big prizes in either the Lottery or Premium Bonds then you wouldn't hold out much chance of becoming rich this weekend. The Premium Bonds have odds of any £1 bond winning ANY prize at roughly one in 30,000. That's not great, but I guess it's a safe place to put your savings if you are lucky enough to have any savings, that is. The chances of winning the UK Lottery jackpot do not get any better and are 1 in 13,983,816 or approximately 1 in 14 million. 'Somebody's got to win it' they say, but with such odds I think we can safely say it's not going to be me, or you!
However, aren't we both already the great winners against the highest of odds? I've always been in awe of the statistical odds against being born. I mean, just the chances of four grand parents meeting, then our parents, and then the biological statistics involved in our births, must be greater odds than that big lottery win? When we start multiplying those odds throughout the generations it becomes mind blowing. Apparently, we have 128 Great-great-great-great-great grandparents which gives an accumulative total of 254 parents, grandparents and great parents during this same genealogical period. Without thinking too hard I believe this would take most of our family trees back to the time of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar? Just to think that we need each of these 254 to survive into adulthood and meet, then to biologically create the next in line to go through the same statistical odds again, is mind blowing!
When we take these odds further back to medieval times they become even more staggering. We have 131,072 Great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great (that's great x 15) grandparents, which would get most of us to around the time when Henry VIII was born. Also, we would have to rely on all those battles and historical events happening exactly as they did. And none of our lineage dying in the Black Death or other such historical disasters. Surely, we can also safely say that if William the Conqueror had not been victorious at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066 at some stage every one of our lineages would have been disrupted and none of us would be here living today.
Anyhow, now and again I come across some facts and include them in our Interesting Facts section. The latest I read was from a respected American academic who put our chances of being born in terms of people throwing a dice...
The probability of being born is the same as 2.5 million people each throwing a trillion-sided dice and getting exactly the same number!
Well, I guess that put the odds of winning the Lottery into perspective!? Aren't the odds involved in the lottery of life just startling and we've all beaten those odds! Congratulations on your amazing win (smile)!!
P.S. Sometimes I want to add a certain piece of trivia to the website and come up a blank after a period of research. My latest boondoggle was simply to find out what was the first word spoken on the moon. After a lot of online reading I've discovered that the NASA experts and historians don't actually know. Experts say that the initial exchange involving the astronauts was a procedural checklist. However, which word was actually said as the feet of the lunar module Eagle touched the surface is one that the experts can't agree on. The contenders range from 'contact', 'okay' to 'Houston'. However, after a bit of digging the only thing that is definite is that no one knows with any certainty what that first word was!