Flipping Coins To See The Future?

from the uh.--yeah.--sure. dept

How can you resist writing about a bunch of scientists who think they’ve figured out a way to (just slightly) predict the future? Found over at Slashdot is this story about a series of “black boxes” that generate random numbers and seem to go slightly non-random during big events… and sometimes even goes slightly non-random right before really big events — or so the article claims. As you might imagine, there are a lot of skeptics out there, and many of them are found in Slashdot’s comments discussing the article. Either way, if you’re bored and feel like checking in on those random number generator “black boxes,” you can watch them live — just don’t ask what they mean.

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Comments on “Flipping Coins To See The Future?”

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dorpus says:

Random Walk

We notice that none of the researchers mentioned in the article say which department they are from, only that they are from “Princeton”.

Ignoring the credibility of the article, randomization has a long history of usage in statistics. The bootstrap procedure, by which we take data from a real experiment, mix it up randomly, and repeat a “virtual” experiment, is a controversial procedure in the field of clinical trials. The bootstrap procedure could create an identical twin of you that shows up in the experiment twice. In a parallel universe, do you have a twin brother? About 1% of births are twins.

In a similar argument I had on another forum about family values — many people are proud to come from large families. But how many families are there whose 13th or 14th child was psychotic, therefore set fire to the house and burned the entire family alive, therefore nobody is left to brag about their big family? The more children a family has, the more likely that at least one of them will be a bad seed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Debunked years ago

This is complete and utter crap, the kind of data manipulation that makes real scientists cringe.

“Over the coming year, Hagelin promised, the results would be carefully analyzed according to strict scientific standards. As promised, Hagelin was back a year later with a fifty-five-page report of the results of the project. It was a clinic in data distortion. A beaming Hagelin announced at a press conference that, during the period of the experiment, violent crime had been reduced by a remarkable 18 percent. “An eighteen-percent reduction compared to what?” a puzzled reporter for the Washington Post asked, recalling the dreadful murder rampage of the summer of ’93. Compared to what it would have been if the meditators had not been meditating, Hagelin explained patiently. “But how could you know what the rate would have been?” the reporter persisted. That had been arrived at, Hagelin responded with just a trace of irritation, by means of a “scientifically rigorous time-series analysis” that included not only crime data but such factors as weather and fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field.”

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