At 0946 GMT on the morning of September 11 in the exceptionally beautiful summer of the year 2077, most of the inhabitants of Europe saw a dazzling fireball appear in the eastern sky. Within seconds it was brighter than the Sun, and as it moved across the heavens -- at first in utter silence -- it left behind it a churning column of dust and smoke. Somewhere above Austria it began to disintegrate, producing a series of concussions so violent that more than a million people had their hearing permanently damaged. They were the lucky ones. Moving at fifty kilometers a second, a thousand tons of rock and metal impacted on the plains of northern Italy, destroying in a few flaming moments the labor of centuries. The cities of Padua and Verona were wiped from the face of the Earth, and the last glories of Venice sank forever beneath the sea as the waters of the Adriatic came thundering landward after the hammer blow from space. Six hundred thousand people died, and the total damage was more than a trillion dollars.....
No doubt you noticed the date at the beginning -- September 11. The novel was published in 1973, long before the 2001 terrorist attack. The first time I re-read it after 2001, noticing the date startled me slightly; but of course it's just a coincidence. There are only 366 dates available on the calendar (even allowing for leap years), and given the number of novels in which some disaster is described as happening on a specific date, it's inevitable that sometimes a date will be chosen that, years later, just happens to become the date of a real disaster.
But to the mind of the mathematical illiterate, who has no grasp of statistics or probability, there is no such thing as coincidence. If you have a dream about a car crash, and the next day you actually have a car accident (or even a near-miss), that means something. You don't think of the huge numbers of dreams about car crashes which happen in a population of billions, and the huge number of car crashes that take place, and the inevitability that a few will coincide by random chance. If you're thinking about talking with Joe, and the phone rings and it is Joe, it was a premonition; never mind the vast number of people who, on any given day, are thinking about talking with somebody, and the vast number of phone calls made, and the inevitability of occasional coincidences. Many of our mystical and even religious beliefs are ultimately rooted in such fallacies.
So the next time somebody tells you about some seemingly-inexplicable correlation, remember Rendezvous with Rama. Sometimes -- most of the time, in fact -- a coincidence is just a coincidence.