PETWHAC stands for Population of Events That Would Have Appeared Coincidental. Population may seem an odd word, but it is the correct statistical term. I won't keep using capital letters because they stand so unattractively on the page. Somebody's watch stopping within ten seconds of the psychic's incantation obviously belongs within the petwhac, but so do many other events. Strictly speaking, the grandfather clock's stopping should not be included. The mystic did not claim that he could stop grandfather clocks. Yet when somebody's grandfather clock did stop, they immediately telephoned in because they were, if anything, even more impressed than they would have been if their watch had stopped. The odd misconception is fostered that the psychic is even more powerful since he didn't even bother to mention that he could stop grandfather clocks, too! Similarly, he said nothing about watches stopping the day before or grandfathers' tickers suffering cardiac arrests.

People feel that such unanticipated events belong in the petwhac. It looks to them as though occult forces must have been at work. But when you start to think like this, the petwhac becomes really quite large, and therein lies the catch. If your watch stopped exactly 24 hours earlier, you would not have to be unduly gullible to embrace this event within the petwhac. If somebody's watch stopped exactly seven minutes before the spell, this might impress some people because seven is an ancient mystic number. And the same presumably goes for seven hours, seven days . . . The larger the petwhac, the less we ought to be impressed by the coincidence when it comes. One of the devices of an effective trickster is to make people think exactly the opposite.


Folksonomies: statistics chance coincidence synchronicity probability

/art and entertainment/music/musical instruments/pianos (0.577202)
/law, govt and politics/law enforcement/police (0.555736)
/law, govt and politics/government (0.470763)

grandfather clocks (0.935724 (neutral:0.000000)), petwhac (0.756614 (negative:-0.468280)), watch (0.735247 (negative:-0.049124)), odd word (0.735069 (negative:-0.200516)), grandfather clock (0.734300 (neutral:0.000000)), capital letters (0.716917 (negative:-0.576802)), odd misconception (0.711881 (negative:-0.619043)), cardiac arrests (0.698752 (negative:-0.658978)), somebody (0.693669 (negative:-0.398699)), effective trickster (0.689105 (positive:0.824183)), occult forces (0.680279 (negative:-0.355550)), unanticipated events (0.654220 (negative:-0.468280)), PETWHAC PETWHAC (0.645939 (neutral:0.000000)), people (0.590541 (negative:-0.146264)), psychic (0.553134 (negative:-0.453321)), Population (0.548631 (negative:-0.200516)), grandfathers (0.479698 (neutral:0.000000)), coincidence (0.478159 (negative:-0.433512)), tickers (0.475081 (negative:-0.658978)), page (0.471611 (negative:-0.799909)), watches (0.469617 (negative:-0.258638)), opposite (0.469487 (neutral:0.000000)), catch (0.466395 (positive:0.471275)), spell (0.463481 (neutral:0.000000)), mystic (0.463188 (negative:-0.353474)), start (0.462714 (positive:0.386986)), number. (0.461341 (neutral:0.000000))

petwhac:Person (0.840484 (negative:-0.468280)), Population of Events:Organization (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000)), seven minutes:Quantity (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000)), seven hours:Quantity (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000)), ten seconds:Quantity (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000)), seven days:Quantity (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000)), 24 hours:Quantity (0.532123 (neutral:0.000000))

Watch (0.980940): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Clock (0.927510): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Clocks (0.853848): dbpedia
Time (0.770235): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2000-04-05), Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Mariner Books, Retrieved on 2011-09-21
Folksonomies: evolution science