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Posts Tagged ‘predictions’

A Strange Sentence About Grand Slams

From today’s Times, an article by David Waldstein called “Mets’ Stretch Without a Slam? Gone. Gone“:

The Mets had gone 299 games and 280 plate appearances with the bases loaded since their last grand slam, while their opponents had hit 18 during that span. So when the opportunity arose in the fourth inning Tuesday night — with Jason Bay at the plate, no less — the chance of a Mets grand slam was slim.

Was the chance of a grand slam really so slim?

Freakonomics Radio, Hour-long Episode 4: “The Folly of Prediction”

It’s impossible to predict the future, but humans can’t help themselves. From the economy to the presidency to the Super Bowl, educated and intelligent people promise insight and repeatedly fail by wide margins. These mistakes and misses go unpunished, both publicly and in our brain, which has become trained to ignore the record of those who make them. In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll dream of the day when bad predictors pay – when the accuracy rate of pundits appear next to their faces on TV, when the weatherman who botches the 5-day forecast by 20 degrees has to make his next appearance soaking wet. We’ll also look at the deep roots of divining what tomorrow brings, from the invention of religion to new understandings of how we make decisions about the future.

FREAK-est Links

This week: Why life expectancy for women is decreasing in some parts of the U.S. Iceland crowdsources its new constitution. How brain scans of teenagers can predict future pop hits, and may even be able to determine whether they’ll grow up to be a criminal.

Dear Yankees: I Am a Bad-Luck Charm

Ever since writing a post last fall asking what Derek Jeter is worth to the Yankees, I’ve been sent a number of requests asking how to best forecast the date when Jeter would get his 3,000th hit so as to be present for that special game.
Sorry, but I put very little thought into this problem. Why? Mostly out of self-interest: for me, this problem wasn’t much of a problem. I live in New York so if I wanted to try to see that game, I’d just wait until Jeter got fairly close and then buy tickets for an upcoming game. I had no travel or other issues to work around.

How Predictable Are Nobel Prizes in Economics?

I was going through a pile of old papers in my office when I found a sheet entitled “Blackboard at the University of Chicago October 5, 2005: Future Nobel Laureates.” I have no idea who brainstormed the list that was written up on the board, or why. I can’t even remember whether I took part in the exercise, although seeing how good the predictions have turned out, I’m going to assert (rightly or wrongly) that I was one of the predictors.
For your entertainment, here is the list of names that were on the board, in their original order.

A Prophet Who Dares Admit the Limits of Prophecy

Fill in the blanks. I dare you. And then read the rest of the post to see who wrote this, and what it’s about.
We’re currently finishing up an hour-long radio program called “The Folly of Prediction,” and I have to say that it was bracingly refreshing to read this paragraph and the column that follows it.

After more than a quarter-century as a professional _________, I have a confession to make: There is a lot I don’t know about _________. Indeed, the area of __________ where I have devoted most of my energy and attention — the ups and downs of _________ — is where I find myself most often confronting important questions without obvious answers.

"The Quarterback Quandary"

Selecting a player in the NFL draft is essentially trying to predict the future, and human beings are simply not very good at it. Things get even harder when trying to pick the most important position in all of sports: the quarterback.

Calling All Predictors to a New Forecasting Tournament

One of the hour-long Freakonomics Radio shows we’re currently producing is about prediction — the science behind it, the human need for it, the folly it often produces.
One person you’ll likely hear from in the program is Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at Penn and author of the deservedly well-regarded book Expert Political Judgment. It is a rigorous romp through the minefield of expert prediction, and essentially argues that the words “expert” and “prediction” should almost never occupy the same sentence.

Witches to Be Held Accountable for Bad Predictions; Why Only Them?

In Romania, life has gotten even harder for practicing witches, as spelled out in a recent A.P. article: “A month after Romanian authorities began taxing them for their trade, the country’s soothsayers and fortune tellers are cursing a new bill that threatens fines or even prison if their predictions don’t come true.”

The Case for More Fiscal Stimulus

I’ve been struck recently that as I talk to most economists, they think that the case for a further fiscal stimulus is pretty solid. At least that’s what I hear in the hallways and seminar rooms. But that’s not what I hear in the media; for some reason the most outspoken economists are the anti-stimulus folks. And so I did a short piece for Public Radio’s Marketplace yesterday on the need for more fiscal stimulus.
I thought it worth taking a closer look at the main arguments against the stimulus:

79 Years Ago, Today

A new blog, News from 1930, summarizes the news that appeared in The Wall Street Journal each day in 1930. For example, on Wednesday, June 25, 1930 a broker said, “When this economic and market readjustment has been completed, it will merely be represented by a small curve downward in our steadily mounting curve of prosperity, consumption, production, and efficiency … ”

Thankfully, No One Pays Attention

Thankfully, no one pays attention to my annual Kentucky Derby picks, because if they did, they would have read this prediction that I made Friday: If I had to pick a last-place finisher (a bet they would never actually offer at the track because people involved with horse racing understand better than most that people respond to incentives), it would . . .

Annual Kentucky Derby Predictions

I’m not sure why, since I don’t think anyone should or does care, but every year I indulge myself by posting Kentucky Derby picks. In contrast to the last two years, my computer model has some strong predictions for this year’s Derby. The two horses I like best from a betting perspective (i.e. the ones I think actually have a . . .

Varian: Google Trends Predicts the Present

If you can predict the future better than other people, you will soon become rich. If you can know better than other people what is happening right now, that is almost as good. After all, if no one else finds out the truth until a month after the fact, the present might as well be the future — nobody knows . . .

Is Legal Same-Sex Marriage Inevitable?

| Polling guru Nate Silver has built a regression model, based on demographic and political trends, to forecast when a majority of the voting public in each of the 50 states might vote against a gay-marriage ban, or vote to repeal an existing one. His findings: by 2016, most states will have legalized gay marriage, with Mississippi alone holding on . . .

Money-Back Guarantees

John Dunn/The New York Times Courtney Paris Oklahoma’s loss in the N.C.A.A. tournament raises interesting questions of both economics and law. The Sooners’s star player, Courtney Paris, promised before the tournament to pay back her scholarship if the Sooners didn’t win the championship. As an economist, I can’t wait to find out whether Paris will follow through (and if so, . . .

Who Said This, When, and About What?

| “I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010.” That’s Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-North Dakota), from a 1999 Times article on the repeal of the Glass-Steagall . . .

An Economic Prediction That Actually Came True

Image: cambodia4kidsorg Economists are notorious for making bad predictions. There are endless examples, but the first one that comes to mind is a book written by economist Kevin Hassett and co-authors entitled Dow 36,000. The title was their prediction of where the Dow Jones Industrial Index should be based on fundamentals. The book came out in the year 2000 with . . .

Do Good Grades Predict Success?

Photo: freeparking Paul Kimelman lives in Alamo, Calif., and is C.T.O. of the Texas-based microcontroller company Luminary Micro. He is the sort of blog reader we are very fortunate to have. He writes to us now and again with such interesting queries that they’re worth putting up on the blog in their entirety. Here’s his latest: I was speaking with . . .

What Is the Future of Suburbia? A Freakonomics Quorum

Photo: Peter Katz On a forum at the Chicago outpost of, a certain JohnDoe2008 asked suburbanites: Why do you like suburbs over [the] city? Be honest please, I never understood it, still don’t. I might have serious problems, because I hate even looking at pictures of suburbs. Respondents cited backyards, quiet and cheap living, and congestion-free commutes — the . . .

From Good to Great … to Below Average

I almost never read business books anymore. I got my fill of them years ago when I was a management consultant before I went back and got a Ph.D. Last week, however, I picked up Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book is an absolute phenomenon in the publishing world. Since it came out in 2001, it has sold . . .

Postcard from Sweden, Marathon Edition

The Noel Coward song suggests that “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Following Saturday’s Stockholm Marathon, I’ll add marathon runners and thousands of cheering Swedes to that list, too. Every novice runner begins a marathon with three aims: to finish; to run the whole way; and to beat some special time (usually four hours). Following . . .

Wisdom of Crowds: Marathon Edition

Tomorrow is a big day for me — I’m running the Stockholm marathon. Here’s a simple wisdom of crowds experiment: A free piece of Freakonomics schwag to whoever comes closest to guessing my finishing time. Leave your guesses in the comments anytime before the race begins (2 p.m. Stockholm time = 8 a.m. EST). And now, the form guide: The . . .

What’s the Best Way to Predict American Idol?

I had a sobering moment a couple of years ago when I noticed that MSNBC’s recommendation engine predicted that I would enjoy stories about American Idol. It’s a guilty pleasure, but AI is one of the more normal things that I do with my 11-year-old daughter, Anna. So my household is quite happy that (fellow Kansas City area native) David . . .

Thoroughbred Breakdowns and Preakness Predictions

The breakdown of Eight Belles in this year’s Kentucky Derby, just a few years after Barbaro‘s broken leg in the Preakness, has a lot of people worried about the safety and welfare of thoroughbreds. Statistics on the frequency of horses breaking down are elusive. The closest thing to official statistics I could find comes from an Andrew Beyer column, in . . .

How Valid Are T.V. Weather Forecasts?

Eggleston and his daughter two minutes before it began to hail. Says Eggleston, “Hail was not in the forecast.” A gentleman named J.D. Eggleston recently wrote to us with a rather interesting report, a nice piece of D.I.Y. Freakonomics concerning the accuracy of local T.V. weather forecasts. I thought it was interesting enough to post in its entirety here on . . .

Your Prediction Please: How Bad Will the 2008 Recession Be?

Justin Wolfers called a recession here not long ago. Ben Bernanke seems about ready to call it himself. Now a reader named Alexis Tatarsky has put the question to all of you on our Freakonomics Prediction Center: On a scale of 1 to 10, with the recession of 2001 being a 4 and the Great Depression an 8, what will . . .

Fine Weather for Insurers

Meterologists at Colorado State University expect the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season to be an unusually active one. If that sounds familiar, it should. The team made a similar forecast for the 2007 season, just as they had in 2006. But both of those dire predictions turned out to be high of the mark — 2006 and 2007 turned out to . . .