When I heard that John McCain and Ted Kennedy died on the same day from the same form of a rare brain cancer, it caught my attention. I thought I would like to ask a mathematician to figure out the actual odds of that happening. Two men, who are in an institution that only has one hundred people in it, out of a population of over three-hundred-million, just happen to die on the same exact day, nine years apart, from the same esoteric brain disease?
For me, it brings up the age-old question of whether life is predetermined, or do we have free will. I know most simpletons would say, it was meant to be, or it was God or the universe, but I like to crunch numbers and look at odds objectively. Moneyball, for an example, is something I am drawn to. I like to see data eviscerate urban legends or stuff we thought were true, that landed up to be completely false.
For an example, in the NFL, most football coaches that win the coin toss at the beginning of the game, give the ball first to the other team. They do this, so they can come out of the locker room at halftime and get the ball first. However, metadata tells us that teams that receive the ball first and do not defer it, win more games. Trying to tell an old school football coach that is useless. Some people just don’t get it. Well, how on Earth did Kennedy and McCain have that happen? What are the odds and what does it mean?
I was reminded by a very smart childhood friend, that the same kind of thing happened with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. I knew that, but I forgot it. Looking at these two examples of these four men, the similarities are profound. One happened in the presidency and now one in the Senate. What are the chances? What does it mean? Was it meant to be? Is something controlling these two events? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I am utterly fascinated with it.