If you line up the entire text of “Moby Dick,” which was published in 1851, into a giant rectangle, you may notice some peculiar patterns: like these words, which seem to predict the assassination of Martin Luther King. Or these references to the 1997 death of Princess Di. So, was Herman Melville a secret prophet?

The answer is no, and we know that thanks to a mathematical principle called Ramsey theory. It’s the reason we can find geometric shapes in the night sky, it’s why we can know without checking that at least two people in London have exactly the same number of hairs on their head, and it explains why patterns can be found in just about any text… even Vanilla Ice lyrics.