Friday the 13th – the unluckiest day of the year (except all the others)

A 13 year old was struck by lightning at 13:13 on Friday 13th! Spooky!

Except that actually 3 other people who were presumably not 13 years old were hit too. And he wasn’t struck by lightning at 13:13, that’s just when the ambulance crews reached him. And of course he survived with minor injuries which isn’t especially unlucky; around 2,000 people died in the UK today, as happens every day – statistically speaking, odds are good at least one of them died at 13:13. How unlucky!

In fact, around 50,000 people were sent to Accident and Emergency today (going by the more complete QMAE data). The odds that no-one would be hospitalised at 13:13 is more than one in a thousand million million, and you’d expect that there would be something like 25 to 30 injuries occurring in that minute alone. Given a 5-minute interval either side of that time for dramatic licence and you’ve got hundreds of possible accidents for The Telegraph to chose from – quite a few of which would likely involve 13 year olds.

Admittedly, the odds of a lightning strike are somewhat longer – on average, there’s about one person struck per week. But most lightning strikes happen in June-August – 66% in fact – which makes it a little less unlikely; and I’d be willing to bet that if there hadn’t been a convenient lightning strike that day, they’d have found another wacky accident to write a story about. Perhaps someone doing a little DIY-gone-wrong on a rainy August day.

In other words, this is a total non-story which the media has only covered because of a very everyday mathematical coincidence. Not that it’s anywhere near the first, nor will it be the last.

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  1. #1 by Jamie on Sunday, 15th August 2010 - 12:38 UTC

    I saw a theory that the octopus’ success could have been down less to chance and more to flag shapes – he only picked teams with three horizontal bars (Germany, Serbia, and Spain). Add to that some operant conditioning and you’ve got yourself a miracle! A MIRACLE!

  2. #2 by Press Not Sorry on Sunday, 15th August 2010 - 12:46 UTC

    Conspiracy theorists back their claims for this particularly ‘gruesome’ Friday the 13th:

    13/08/10 = 1 + 3 + 8 +1 = 13 = we’re doomed.

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