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I see a pattern emerging

David Gregory | 16:36 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

This is The Daily Mail's mapHumans like to find patterns in things. And sometimes that leads us into strange places. For example this story in the Daily Mail complete with the interesting graphic you see above which poses the question;

"Stone Age satnav: Did ancient man use 5,000-year-old travel chart to navigate across Britain."

"Obviously not" would be my answer and that would be that. But some people enjoy crafting a much more elegant response to this sort of thing. Which brings us to this amazing new discovery;

"Locations of Ancient Woolworths Stores follow Precise Geometrical Pattern"

This is the headline of an email sent out by Matt Parker and reproduced on his blog by Ben Goldacre. Here's a taster;

The results revealed an exact and precise geometric placement of the Woolworths locations. Three stores around Birmingham formed an exact equilateral triangle (Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Birmingham stores) and if the base of the triangle is extended, it forms a 173.8 mile line linking the Conwy and Luton stores. Despite the 173.8 mile distance involved, the Conway Woolworths store is only 40 feet off the exact line and the Luton site is within 30 feet. All four stores align with an accuracy of 0.05%.

Matt's mapIf you think ancient man had a "Stone Age satnav" then you can't but fail to be impressed by the spooky goings on around the Pallisades in Birmingham city centre. Matt has also produced a map and it would appear Birmingham is the centre of something extraordinary. Well possibly. Matt goes on;

"These incredibly precise geometric patterns mean that the people who founded the Woolworths empire must have used these store locations as a form of 'landmark satnav' to help hunters find their nearest source of cheap sweets that can be purchased in whatever mix they chose to pick. Well, that or the fact that in any sufficiently large set of random data it is possible to find meaningless patterns of any required accuracy."

And that's the rub. In fact on Midlands Today we've come across this sort of thing before. So as a treat here's a "World of the Strange" report when I was a lot thinner, but just as scientifically sceptical about this sort of thing.

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