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The Unlikely

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    Revisiting “Moneyball” with Paul DePodesta

    Shattering preconceptions about players isn’t all about the numbers.

  • The Unlikely

    “What are the odds?” This is a surprisingly difficult, and loaded, question. Is the improbable event an indication of some hidden mechanism? Or is it just long odds? In this issue, we explore The Unlikely—from how to predict it, to how to live with what we couldn’t predict. 

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    Hunting for Eclipses as Perfect as Earth’s

    Roughly twice a year, the apparent positions of Sun and Moon coincide, and a fortunate few observers are treated to a solar eclipse. Watching such an event provides the opportunity to contemplate a strange coincidence: From the surface of Earth, the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon in the sky are nearly equal. The […]

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    Unlikely Story: Truth Is Stranger Than Pulp Fiction

    A few weeks we asked you for your most unlikely stories—the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and think, “What are the chances?” Here’s one from one of Nautilus’ own editors. Chanting can, apparently, be a pretty good marketing tool. It was chanting that turned me on to Reservoir Dogs, a cult […]

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    Unwinding the Mystery of Namibia’s Natural Crop Circles

    The Himba bushmen who inhabit the Namibian grasslands—a 1,200-mile-long swath of land running from Angola into South Africa—have come up with different stories over the years to explain the unusual circular bare patches, called “fairy circles,” dotted throughout the grassy expanse. These reddish-hued circles, sometimes several feet in diameter, are dubbed “footprints of the gods,” […]

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    The Curse of Being a Sole Survivor

    On January 26, 1972, a Yugoslavian passenger plane flying 33,000 feet above then-Czechoslovakia exploded, ripped apart, and plummeted into the ground, killing 27 of the 28 passengers and crew. Vesna Vulovic, a flight attendant, was the only one to survive the crash. Vulovic holds the Guinness World Record for surviving the highest fall without a […]

  • Olinguito

    How Unicorns Evolved Into Rhinos, Goblin Sharks & Olinguitos

    Earlier this month there was a rare announcement, promoted widely by the press: a new mammal species had been discovered, the first carnivorous mammal identified in the Americas for 35 years. But the olinguito, as the raccoon-like carnivore is now known, was not spotted for its surprising looks or remarkable behaviors that set it apart […]

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    Unlikely Story: The Swordfish With a Nose Ring

    A few weeks we asked you for your most unlikely stories—the kinds of things that make you scratch your head and think, “What are the chances?” Last week we published a birthday coincidence. Here’s another one of our favorite stories, this one submitted by Dan Clem. For seven weeks in the winter of 2003 I […]

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    The Freaky Celestial Events We See—and the Ones We Don’t

    On March 28, 2011, the orbiting Swift observatory spotted an extraordinary gamma-ray burst, a bright source of energetic light from a distant galaxy. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are some of the brightest and most energetic events in the cosmos. Their measurable strong emission in most cases vanishes after about 30 seconds, but this particular event—known as […]

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    Why Everyone Thinks They’re Safer Than Average

    It’s an odd quirk of the human mind that we tend to think we’re less likely to be affected a particular threat—be it the flu, a car accident, or a flood—than anyone else. Like the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, this is a patent impossibility: Everyone can’t be […]