In Fluke, mathematician Joseph Mazur takes a second look at the seemingly improbable, sharing with us an entertaining guide to the most surprising moments in our lives. He takes us on a tour of the mathematical concepts of probability, such as the law of large numbers and the birthday paradox, and combines these concepts with lively anecdotes of flukes from around the world.

How do you explain finding your college copy of Moby Dick in a used bookstore on the Seine on your first visit to Paris? How can a jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DNA found at the scene of a heinous crime did not get there by some fluke? Should we be surprised if strangers named Maria and Francisco, seeking each other in a hotel lobby, accidentally meet the wrong Francisco and the wrong Maria, another pair of strangers also looking for each other?

As Mazur reveals, if there is any likelihood that something could happen, no matter how small, it is bound to happen to someone at some time.

Joseph Mazur is an emeritus professor of mathematics at Marlboro College, and the author of four other popular mathematics books. 

Colleen Lane, flickr

A college in the Hudson Valley is the recipient of more than $1.4 million in funding for a scholarship program for prospective math and science teachers.