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Blogosophical Investigations
 
Thursday, February 24, 2005  

This is my last entry on tsunami dreams. Until I think of something else to say, anyway. But I just wanted to add this: in my last entry but one I tried to estimate how many dreams there might be each night that appear to predict anything significant the following day. Let's try to run the process the other way and estimate how many dreams of tsunamis we might have expected to occur by pure chance in the 24 hours before the tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004.

How often do people dream of tsunamis (or tidal waves, if they have old-fashioned vocabularies)? Well, any sort of flood would seem significant to keen dreamers ­– see the case of Fidget in the last entry. Suppose we were to be very restrictive and say the average person only has (and recalls) one all-singing, all-dancing, feel-your-feet-get-wet dream of devastating floods in a lifetime. Well, if you've got a better guess, tell me – and justify it.

Confining ourselves to the richest billion people in the world, the ones most likely to shove their dreams onto the Internet – and then to the two-thirds who are adults – that's 700 million such dreams they'll produce during their lives. Assuming an average lifespan of 70 years – that's 10 million dreams a year. Or 30,000 every night.

That's right: I'm saying that throughout the richest part of the world, on the night before the Boxing Day tsunami, there were tens of thousands of dreams about flooding. And every night before, and every night since.

And we're discounting the merely quite damp dreams – of leaking kitchen taps, of leaky roofs, of umbrellas with holes, of panicking in the swimming pool – even though some at least of those who had the dreams are quite likely to have regarded them as highly significant when they read the papers or watched TV the day after the great wave.

What proportion of these would be reported on the Internet? A few percent, representing a few hundred?

If so, then I'd have to look at quite a lot of the 14,000–19,000 pages that Google returns for dream + tsunami + prediction to find first-hand dream reports; I don't think I have enough stomach for abject nonsense to be able to do that.

But the take-home message is: however many pseudo-predictive dream reports you come across, they're only a small sample of what you'd expect to occur by chance.

---


What song the sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.

But they're beyond my powers to conjecture with back-of-the-envelope quantitative estimates.


10:59 PM

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