Are you superstitious?

Don’t be too quick to answer “no”. If we give it a minute and really think about it, we may realise that most of us have some habits or customs we stick to even though we know they make no rational sense. It is perhaps our fear of encountering bad luck if we don’t do so. Or it may have more to do with the fact that it is part of a routine which gives us a sense of stability. These habits and beliefs differ from person to person and are part of the magic of what makes us, us. In this edition, six ETH students share their very personal views on their superstitions and superstitious habits.

by Polykum Redaktion

Being a science student, you tend to notice a lot of pseudoscience in your day-to-day life. This ranges from topics such as astrology to conspiracy theories about CERN scientists trying to open demonic portals using the Large Hadron Collider (yes, I have had some very interesting conversations with some very interesting people). Most superstitions tend to fall somewhere in between. The majority of people I surround myself with, including myself, generally form opinions based on scientific research. However, in my experience, it’s not uncommon to have minor superstitious beliefs that aid in providing some degree of comfort to the person. When these superstitions are detached from anything with scientific importance (politics, medical procedures, etc.), I believe they can be a useful tool to comfort yourself in difficult times, provide confidence or allow you to smash your next workout.

Flynn, MSc Physics

Perhaps many people have certain unexplainable beliefs, and they do certain things in a unique way because of these, but they don’t realise that. I guess I am one of them – I didn’t think I was superstitious, however if I give it a thought, I probably am. I have superstitions about good luck. I believe good luck is something that you may lose when you have been continuously having it for a long period of time, and if you haven’t been getting any good luck in a while, it may come to you soon. So, when I realise that everything has been going very smoothly for me recently, I will secretly worry that some upcoming things may not work out too well. Similarly, if I feel that I have been followed by bad luck, I tell myself that good things may happen soon. It’s a comforting thought.

Fanxi, MSc Biology

I don’t have many superstitions per se, but my mom has a lot! She always says that we should touch wood if we say something bad. I remember, once I had a very bad fall on the street and said that thankfully nothing major happened. And my mom told me “Whaaat?! Touch wood please, I don’t want something bad happening to you.“ As for my superstitions, if I see a perfect time, like 11:11, I’ll say to my friends “Pleeease touch something red, you’ll have a lucky day!” A friend of mine has a similar superstition, but in hers you have to touch your nose. This same friend believes in karma, so if she does bad actions, something bad will happen to her.

But I guess I’m not the most superstitious guy, but i’m sure my mom can coach me, haha. Also, just as a sidenote – I love black cats 😉

Mathis, MSc Environmental Engineering

Für mich als Spitzensportler geht es darum, am Tag X meine bestmögliche Leistung abrufen zu können. Meist widerspiegeln sich vor allem die im Vorfeld absolvierten Trainingsstunden im Wettkampfresultat. Im Orientierungslauf ist die psychische Komponente jedoch auch sehr gross. Um mich an der Startlinie im richtigen Mindset zu befinden, habe ich viele Angewohnheiten und Rituale, welche ich an jedem Wettkampftag genau gleich mache. Hier eine kleine Auswahl: eine Banane exakt eine Stunde vor dem Start, die Schuhbändel immer gleich knöpfen, immer dieselben Aufwärmübungen machen und die Aufwärmzeit auf meiner Uhr sekundengenau auf die volle Minute abstoppen.

Auch wenn ich weiss, dass viele meiner Angewohnheiten keinen wissenschaftlich bewiesenen Vorteil für mich bringen, wage ich es trotzdem nicht, diese drastisch zu ändern, solange ich mich damit vor dem Start geistig bereit fühle.

Tino, BSc Bauingenieurwissenschaften und Orientierungsläufer

Wenn ich so darüber nachdenke, habe ich schon abergläubische Angewohnheiten. Gerade vor Prüfungen habe ich ein paar Ticks. So lege ich die Theorieunterlagen in der Nacht vor der Prüfung neben mein Bett, so als würde dann im Schlaf noch etwas mehr Wissen in meinen Kopf gelangen. Und ich schreibe die Prüfung immer mit demselben Stift, mit dem ich auch die Zusammenfassung geschrieben habe.

Wenn ich mit meinem Pferd ausreite, dann lobe ich das Pferd immer erst, wenn wir wieder zurück im Stall sind. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass das Pferd sonst sofort anfängt, Unfug zu machen. Ganz nach dem Motto: «Du sollst den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben.»

Und wenn ich jemanden am Tag vor seinem Geburtstag sehe, sage ich: «Ich gratuliere dir jetzt noch nicht, zu früh zu gratulieren, soll ja Unglück bringen.»


We are surrounded by the unknown and one of the goals of science is trying to elucidate some of those mysteries. But I know that we will never unveil them all. If so many people are still reluctant to pass under some harmless chairs, it’s because no one was able to prove that there isn’t such thing as bad luck, or karma, or God, or whatever name one wants to give it. And nobody ever will. It’s because despite all reason, people keep experiencing seemingly unexplainable things, which goes around and ultimately, by word of mouth, turn into superstitions. Some might see this as a failure of reason. But the inexplicable is inevitable. And I celebrate it. It means I still have something left to learn or to explain. It gives me a reason to continue imagining the impossible. Life would be pretty dull if everything made sense and if you don’t allow yourself to believe sometimes in some non-sense too.

Nonô, BSc Interdisciplinary Sciences

Sabrina Strub, 24,
studiert Bauingenieurwissenschaften im Master und geht nie ohne ihren Glücksbringerstein an eine Prüfung.

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