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article archives at abelard's news and comment zonebehaviour and intelligence archives
1 2 3 4 5 III-2004: 11 23 26 29 30 IV-2004: 03 19 19-2 25 V-2004: 13 20 VI-2004: 23 25 30
behaviour and intelligence

whose gonna win the presidency? wanna bet?

who will win the presidency?

what will the percentages of the vote be?

This is a new and growing way of predicting such events. You don’t ask people what they intend to do, you get people to put their money where there mouth is, and bet on what they think the result will be.

In 2000, George Bush would have cost you 48 cents. He got 48% of the vote.

Between 1988 and 2000, this method was, on average, out by 1.37% in presidential elections, out by 3.43% in other elections, and 2.12% off in foreign (to the US) elections.

This method has in general out performed the polls and been more accurate, even months in advance.

On 596 different presidential polls during the period, 3/4 of the time the IEM [Iowa Electronic Market] betting method was closer than the polls. Polls tend also to be much more volatile than IEM.

The upshot is that this betting method is more reliable than the polls, and so far this is on small numbers of punters.

This is a summary from The Wisdom of Crowds, pp 18-19.

I see the dork tendency braying about the wondrous effect the Moron Moore ‘film’ will have on the chances of Kerry.

You may watch day by day to see what the punters think of that notion when placing their bets.

So far in the last couple of days, the punters have marked Kerry down by around a point and a half (see first link above).

I wonder whether the party hacks will start to think it’s worth piling in dumb bets on their horse in order to make the polls look better for them!

About 53% think Bush will win the election, while around 46% bet on Kerry (see second link above).

(The technical logic behind this method is that many people contain more data among them than any one person can access. This is a method of accumulating that alleged data into decision.)

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ambiguity and noise

image credit: Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute “ Tyler thinks this natural noise makes people observing the Mona Lisa believe its expression is subtly changing, rather than thinking they are seeing a single ambiguous expression.

“ "That may be part of what makes the painting so powerful," he says, something Leonardo must have instinctively realised. ”

(with illustration, thumbnail shown here)

the web address for the article above is

Related material:
Profession by Isaac Asimov

improving knowledge by small steps

history 1 Three GoldenYak award

A history of science—Isaac Asimov on the relativity of wrong. How wrong is wrong?
A fascinating study of changes in the knowledge of the shape of the earth.

Is the Earth flat, spherical, oblate, or even a bit off oblate?
Each of these suggestions has been believed for good reasons. Each has been refined as our exploration of this strange world developed..

history 2

The reality of the Inquisition; and modern political responses to the uncertain facts, apologising for the past.

“ You can't ask forgiveness for images that have been spread throughout public opinion, that are more myth than reality," said Cardinal Georges Cottier, a Vatican theologian.

“While many experts agree that the number of executions commonly attributed to the Inquisition is inflated, some wondered if the Church was practicing a sort of damage control on a centuries-old blemish.

“ Common perception is always exaggerated in terms of numbers," said Henry Kamen, author of the study "The Spanish Inquisition" and a visiting history professor at the University of Chicago.

“ But there are those who in reaction and self-defense deliberately downplay the figures," he continued. "The Vatican clergy might be in that category.”

Or may be not.

Related material:
Profession by Isaac Asimov

the web address for the article above is

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