Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I was saving this for later but now seems as good a time as any to bring it out.

Here's a great bit from British show QI, with Stephen Fry performing an action that is so improbable as to be nearly impossible.

Stephen shuffles a deck of cards a couple times.

The probability of any particular order of cards in a standard 52-card deck are 1 in 52 factorial (1/52!), or if you prefer it written longhand, 1 in 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,­000.

And yet, even with those astronomical odds, the cards do in fact end up in the order they do.  Just goes to show that things that are unbelievably improbable, they happen, every time.  Things that have literally almost no chance of happening, do happen.  So remember, if you think that a miracle is just something that is improbable, go to a casino and have your mind blown as miracles happen over and over and over again.


  1. That's an odd way of looking at probability...

    Of course, the odds of it being in ANY order are 1/1; when one adds an independent criteria to it, that's when it becomes interesting and eye-opening.

    I'm presuming that this is in relation to the idea of abiogenesis via exclusively natural law. It's not just any order of atoms that will create life. I can't throw a bunch of liquids and solids on the ground and ever expect life to emerge from it. In fact, the chance of my doing that successfully is 1 in 10 to the 40,000; a SIGNIFICANTLY greater number than the one in the video. In fact, you could multiply 52! by 1,000,000,000,000 and not even get close to 1% of that number ( http://web2.0calc.com/ ).

    What I meant earlier by "independent criteria" is that there is a pattern. With a pattern, there is no logical connection between it and the action itself. If I throw 26 alphabet magnets randomly on the fridge, there is no logical reason for it to necessarily or even likely form in alphabetical order.

    Another example would be this: I get a jeep for my 18th birthday from my parents, and on the jeep the license plate says "6O2-41ZT". There is no reason for me to think that that license plate was special-ordered for me. However, if it says "ADAMJG18", then I would be silly to think that there's no reason to believe they ordered a license plate specifically with that tag number.

  2. "That's an odd way of looking at probability..." Maybe try opening with something less condescending next time.

    "Of course, the odds of it being in ANY order are 1/1." Yes, that's true. But the odds of it being in that particular 52 card sequence are 52!/1.

    "I'm presuming that this is in relation to the idea of abiogenesis via exclusively natural law." Nope. This was just showing that improbable things happen, not any specific thing.

    "It's not just any order of atoms that will create life." This is perhaps slightly misrepresentative of naturalistic views of the origin of life, but whatever, I'll play ball. Yes, it takes a very particular set of things to happen for life to arise.

    "In fact, the chance of my doing that successfully is 1 in 10 to the 40,000"
    We'll ignore the fact that this number seems to be pulled directly from nowhere, and I'll simply reiterate my point: improbable things happen. And I'd be more adept to thinking that life was truly impossible if, perhaps, life on Earth were based on a rare isotope of Bismuth, but it's not. It's based on the most abundant element in the universe: carbon. Even with that aside, again I say improbable things happen. If you want to appeal to personal incredulity, as does WLC, and say "it's simply impossible to believe that this all happened by chance," then that's fine, just so long as you accept that you're basing your views on a fallacy and let's move on.

    If we were to consider the amazing improbability of my existence, then the fact that I, Jonathon Michael Gill, a specific being who exists, just right now, at 10:29:12 Central Time, in the city of Murfreesboro, TN, performed 3 riffle shuffles and 2 overhand shuffles on a red bicycle deck of cards and got the following order:
    6s 4s Jc Ks 10d 2h 9s 7d 9h 2d 2s 9d Kc 8s 8h 4c 9c 6d 5h 3h Ah 3s 10s 5s Qc 5d 7c 2c Jh 10c Qh 6c 7s 7h Qs Js 8d 5c As 4h 4d 10h Kd 6h Kh Ad Jd 8c Ac Qd 3d

    The odds that that particular series of events would eventuate is immeasurably more than your supposed 1 in 10 to the 40,000 and yet, that particular event DID just happen.

    It's a miracle!

    1. And by the way, if you're wondering why that's only 51 cards, the answer is simple: the 52nd card from that particular deck, the 3 of clubs is on my wall, in a photo frame, autographed by Penn Jillette. How's *that* for unlikely?