Archive for October, 2010

I have a really hard time taking the far-right seriously when they seem so disconnected from reality.

Here’s a gem from an article posted on Facebook by my far-right neighbor:

“That’s not all that surprising, since the president appears to believe that the federal government is the sole and rightful owner of what you think is your money. He says it isn’t your money. He is convinced that it’s his.” (Source)

Another gem found on the Planet Money message board:

“Of course a liberal/socialist likes to lie, like trying to legalize medical marijuana so they can eventually legalize pot, or legalize gay marriage so they can eventually legalize forcing your children to learn to be gay.” (Source)

A few weeks ago, I heard a nationally-syndicated right-wing talk radio host claim that Obama was going to declare himself dictator and rule the United States for the next forty years. (I wish I had some audio of that ignorant rant.)

If you aren’t capable of making an actual argument, I guess you can always make shit up.

On a positive note, our local tea-bagger candidate for governor (he won the Republican Primary in August) has done nothing but sink in the polls since the primary. He’s currently polling at 15-17% (down from the low thirties just seven weeks ago). This is largely due to a Republican coming in on the Constitution party, and every week he seems to suck more votes away from him. The Constitution party is now polling at around 31-35%.

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The Aliens are Coming

Hm, I wonder what the odds of this coming true are?

A newly-published book by a retired NORAD officer predicts October 13, 2010 as the tentative date for a fleet of extraterrestrial vehicles to hover for hours over the earth’s principal cities. Author says the event to be the first in a series intended to avert a planetary catastrophe resulting from increasing levels of carbon-dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere dangerously approaching a “critical mass.”
( Source: Yahoo News )

Apparently, it’s gotten pretty popular with the UFO crowd; a google search for “october 13, 2010” ufo yields 61,300 results. Only eight days left. Or, maybe he watches too much “V”.

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Old Farmers Almanac

One of my relatives recently picked up a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. So, I asked what was inside. He said that one of the things inside the book was predictions about how warm or cold the next season would be, which is useful for farmers. I was skeptical, and thought “that sounds like something that can be tested mathematically”. Were their predictions any better than chance?

Flipping through it, I stumbled on this chart. I have to give them credit for listing last year’s prediction along with that year’s actual values.

Some predicted values were very close to their actual values, but others were off in a major way. Adding up the numbers, the gap between their predicted value and the actual value was an average of 1.92 degrees.

For comparison, if you predicted nothing at all (i.e. zero temperature variation from normal), your prediction would be off by an average of 1.99 degrees. If you made predictions using random numbers between -2.0 and +2.0, you’d be off by an average of 2.12 degrees. Since their predicted values were between -2.0 and +2.0 in 15 out of 16 cases, this is probably a good comparison to random. So, the Farmer’s Almanac did slightly better than random, but not by much. When thousands of random predictions were generated between -2.0 and +2.0, the Farmer’s Almanac scored in the 78th percentile. This is the equivalent of correctly guessing 6 out of 10 coin flips, or having 2 or 3 of the 16 predictions being exactly correct, while the other 13 or 14 predictions being completely random.

Based on this, I’d say that either the Farmer’s Almanac predictions were no better than random but they had a good year (something that could be double-checked by looking at predictions in other years), or maybe they have some slight indication of the upcoming season (for example, if there’s a slight tendency for a warm summer to follow a cold winter).

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