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No. 96: Nov-Dec 1994

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A Curious String Of Coincidences

The journal Nature is not the place where one usually finds mention of bizarre coincidences. Nature's nature is supposed to be exclusively rational -- completely dedicated to a cause-and-effect universe. Yet, there it was: A letter from A. Scott calling attention to the fact that three fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted Jupiter almost precisely 25 years after three crucial events in the Apollo-11 moon landing mission.

Fact #1. Comet fragment 1 impacted the same day as the Apollo-11 launch, but 25 years later.

Fact #2. The largest comet fragment hit Jupiter 25 years to the minute after the actual landing.

Fact #3. The final comet fragment hit almost precisely 25 years after lift-off from the lunar surface.

"So the start, climax and end of the series of impacts coincided exactly with the start, climax and end (in the sense of departure from the Moon) of the Apollo-11 mission to the Moon."

(Scott, Andrew; "Strange But True," Nature, 371:97, 1994.)

Comment. Truly, nature works in mysterious ways. Are these incredible coincidences a transcendental beckoning, like the monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey ? Wait a minute, it was no other than Arthur C. Clarke, who first pointed out Fact #2 above. And what did he write?

From Science Frontiers #96, NOV-DEC 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987