Friday, 22 July 2016


It often transcends species
Ever wondered whether there is someone 'out there' who looks like you? Or are you totally unique, without equal and all alone in an uncaring world? Folk wisdom declares that there exists an exact replica of everyone, a doppelganger. But so called 'folk wisdom' has a well earned reputation for being a total load of bollocks. Remember: 'Red sky at night, arsonist's annual get to together' or who could forget, 'Too much cake, big fat arse. 

I'll try not to digress.  

In a world of 7 billion people there should be a lot of potential matches, mayhap? Would you believe that some geek has actually investigated this phenomenon in an empirical manner? Anyway, some daft bugger examined four thousand military photos and measured salient physiognomic features (not really). Eight key features were measured such as distance between the eyes etc. On the basis of these limited features (data) they calculated that the chance of an exact match between two individuals to be less than one in a trillion. On current population estimates this means that there is a 1 in 135 that there is a single pair of doppelgangers in the world. Given those statistics what are the chances of you bumping into your other self in the High Street? The mind boggles.  

Science can answer many questions but perhaps this is not one of them. Our minds are set up to perceive general patterns. When we observe a face our eyes first flit to the eyes and then to other features. We garner a general impression without knowing measurements to the exact millimetre. A gestalt perhaps: noting an organised whole as perceived as more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, we don't have to be exact to recognise someone who looks like us. When considered in this way, there are more doppelgangers than we should care for.

The Flaxen Saxon Experience

I distinctly recall being on a train in Brisbane Australia some years ago. There was a man in front of me and from the back I could see some faint resemblance, which initially made me intrigued. As we both stood up to leave the train we both turned face forward and acknowledged some shock as we recognised recognition. Not necessarily a perfect match but a certain similarity which showed a mutual resonance. We both smiled and sadly, I winked (may Woden forgive me). And that was it. We went our merry way reflecting on how life can be interesting in the most mundane of situations.      

Humanity is not fixed and for all our manifest faults we must embrace our diversity, with aplomb, especially if it conforms to our preconceived prejudices. 




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