We’re all a statistical impossibility and yet somehow we’re all here!

May 19th, 2023 11:45 AM

Science has estimated the probability of being born as one in 10 to the power of 2,685,000. And yet we are here - all the chance happenings that help change the world are all little miracles, like the newest member of the Kings – Abbie Louise King, born on November 25th last, (inset). (Main photo: Shutterstock)

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Ever wondered how close any of us are to not even existing in this universe of ours? Peadar King has been taking a deep dive into some revealing data, and he’s amazed by how it all works out.

WHAT are the chances of you reading this article? High? Slim? No chance? Even if you are a regular reader of The Southern Star? Even if you are not? 

There are all kind of possibilities. You may be a regular reader, but are on holidays, in hospital, were not in any shop in the last week. 

You may have a copy of The Southern Star but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet? You may have read it but decided to skip this article. ‘I’ve read this guy before and naw, not really interested in reading him again.’ 

A colleague once told me that he met his future wife in a Dublin nightclub. And no, it was not Copper Face Jacks. It’s not the only nightclub in Dublin. 

I remember a group of us speculating with him on the chances of that happening. Travelling to far-flung places leads to such conversations. They now have two children. Nothing remarkable in that, I hear you say. Except, it is wholly remarkable. 

Around the time they met, of the 522 dance venues in the country, 100 were in Dublin. The average Dublin nightclub opens five nights a week, it’s four nights outside Dublin. 

Clubs that on average entertain 8m people annually. All of which I garnered from Economic and Social Impact Assessment of the proposed regulation of the Nightclub Industry in Ireland, a now somewhat dated report by economist Constantin Gurdgiev. 

There was no information on the average size of Irish nightclubs, but globally nightclubs vary in size from 2,500sq ft to 10,000sq ft. That, at least, is what Wikipedia, when all else fails, tells me. 

So the fact that my friend and colleague met his future wife in a nightclub, takes on a new significance. They could have gone to different nightclubs. 

They may have gone to the same nightclub, but may not have found each other. They could have met someone else. They could have stayed at home to do their laundry. All kinds of permutations are possible. 

An altogether different colleague, a German woman living in Berlin on the night the wall came down, told me she had no idea what was happening that night as she was doing her laundry and did not have the television or radio on. History happens. 

Even as we undertake the most mundane (and important) of household chores. 

All of which came to mind on reading, by chance, a report by Dr Ali Binazir, a happiness engineer and  personal growth consultant. 

So, what do you do? I’m a happiness engineer … He’s from the USA, but you probably guessed that. Amongst other claims to fame, he is the author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible. Who writes these books? 

This was not the report I was reading, but came across in the references. Just so you know. It was the highest-rated dating book on for over four years, according to his website. Who reads these books? Local bookshops, take note.

Dr Binazir estimates the probability of being born as one in 10 to the power of 2,685,000. That’s a 10, followed by 2,685,000 zeroes. Advance apologies for the male perspective here, and possibly more information than you need or want. 

That said, here goes: A typical ejaculation contains around 200m sperm. If any of the other 200m sperm had fertilised the egg that you and I developed from, then you and I would not have been born. Instead someone else, with 75% of our genes, would have been born in our place. Here’s a thought: what would 75% of us look like? 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a female foetus typically has around 6–7 million eggs at 20 weeks of gestation, dropping to 1–2 million at birth. 

The number of immature egg cells decreases by around 11,000 each month before puberty, resulting in 300,000–500,000 at puberty. The random meeting of one egg and one sperm is all it took to make you and me. What were the chances? 

While most of us, perhaps even all of us, do not, want to contemplate these things, but if your father’s and my father’s ejaculation had occurred just milliseconds earlier or later, it would almost certainly have been a different sperm that fertilised my mother’s and your mother’s egg. Then there would be no you, no me.

All kinds of things could have caused that millisecond delay, apart from the obvious. A cow might have calved that day. 

One parent could have decided to run a traffic light on orange and got home earlier than expected. One parent might have popped into the local shop for a pint of milk. Both might have decided to stay in the pub for another drink. 

All of which meant they got home fractionally later or earlier with consequent knock-on effects for that evening’s activity. All conspired to ensure we are here. 

And then consider this.

The probability of our biological parents meeting, irrespective of how and where they met. Then consider the probability of their parents, mine/your grandparents meeting. All four of them. And consider the probability of all having sex at the precise time they did. And their parents, and their parents, going back 150,000 generations, or 2.5m years. All of these comings together were instrumental in making you and me. This period only accounts for the genus homo, Dr Binazir reminds us; and increases to 14m years if we include the hominidae family, whose members include humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. 

All of whom had to not just reach reproductive age, but acted on it. 

The truth is we are a statistical impossibility. Yet, he says, here we are. 

At the age of 30, Sonny Ryan, my maternal grandfather, died on  March 24th 100 years ago this year, two months before my mother was born. He died as a result of a burst appendix. If he had that seven months previously, this article would not be in The Southern Star. But it is. 

For all of that, you, I and this article are a statistical impossibility. Given all of that, I hope you enjoy the read and all the other articles in this edition of The Southern Star. 

On November 25th 2022, Abbie Louise King, the latest arrival in the extended King family and Sonny Ryan’s 63rd direct descendent, miraculously arrived on this planet. 

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