Miracles Happen Around Once A Month According To Littlewood's Law

15/04/2013 11:25 BST | Updated 15/04/2013 11:35 BST

When was the last time something happened to you that was so incredible it made you think there must be someone or something looking over you?

A miracle if you will.

Well, according to one theory, Littlewood's Law, they are far more common than you might think.

Science fact and fiction website io9 pointed us to the surprising history of the mathematical study of miracles.


Every 35 days you could be witnessing something like this

Professor John Edensor Littlewood of Cambridge University decided to apply cold mathematical reasoning to the concept back in 1955.

He assumed that a miracle is a one-in-a-million event. He also surmised the average human will witness one event per second during the eight hours each day when they are "alert".

This mean you will witness a million events roughly every 35 days - and the law of averages says one of these will be "miraculous".

Yes, it's little more than a maths joke - and Littlewood did far more - and more important work - in his career until his death at 92 in 1977.

The volume in which its contained - a Mathematician's Miscellany - is in fact a spritely little book uncovering the fun and occasional wisdom of life gleamed from studying maths at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Indeed the theory was intended to debunk the existence of supposedly 'super-natural' events, which most of the time turn out to be very common.

But still, it's a neat little theory. A review of the book at the time said:

"There is nothing cheap or trivial in the book, because there is so much of Littlewood's mathematical personality in it. For the same reason, and despite the author's disclaimer, there is uplift in the book. It is indeed more than entertainment to learn Littlewood's views, to see his tastes, to feel "what makes him click." Even his entertaining game of debunking ("every mathematical proof is a debunking of some sort") becomes an experience."

Sadly it's now out of print - but see if you can track it down. It might be difficult, but even if it's one in a million it won't take more than a month or so to find it.