William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Rats. Post Didn’t Show

I realized, only now, that the post for today did not show. I obviously pushed the wrong button. I’ve been away from the computer all day and didn’t see it.

Too late to put it up now. See this space tomorrow for an exciting new article entitled “Protocols of the Elders of Big Oil.”

Predictions 2014—Register Yours Today!

What will happen in the world in 2014? You have until 10 January to tell us in the comments below.

Let’s hope we’re more accurate than we were last year, where the hit rate was pretty low.

If you want to be a big cheese in the prediction game you not only have to be accurate, but you must pick events which are difficult to foretell. It’s no use saying, “MSNBC will discover a racist conspiracy in people who call for less government intrusion” or “The New York Times will print a front-page story quoting an activist who is ‘outraged’.” Anybody could guess these.

Instead try something like, “Barack Obama will be revealed to be an inter-dimensional space alien come to prepare the earth for assimilation.” Risky. But if it turns out to be true, think of the fame and glory!

Please number your predictions, which makes it easy on me when I check them next year.

Here are mine.

(1) Barack Obama will be revealed to be an inter-dimensional space alien come to prepare the earth for assimilation.

(2) Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate will realize his life’s work (making good predictions) is in ruins, that the state of climate science is a shambles. He will publicly recant and join Exxon as a staff consultant.

(3) Yours Truly will go out expecting to have a nice quiet meal but will be assaulted by sounds in quality and volume resembling construction noises produced by faulty equipment which will by the host be called “music.” At least one person will say, “I like this song” proving our great national slide into decadence will continue unabated, and perhaps even accelerated, in 2014.

Okay, now the real ones. Wait. Number three is real.

(1) Big earthquake in California, which will be ruinous; however, the blamestorm which follows will be worse. Earthquakes? In California? Who knew? The political party is power will blame the party out of power.

(2) Transgenderism on the rise. There will be at least one memorable media flap where some dinosaur announces words to the effect, “A man who likes to wear a dress and who has had his pertinents sliced off by a med-school-diploma-wielding sadist is not a woman.” This prehistoric moralist will be made to suffer the loss of a job, money, prestige or something equally important when he refuses to call a specific man pretending to be a woman “she.” A transgender “marriage” will take place.

(3) The Democrats will retain the Senate, the Republicans the House. This is because may provisions of Obamacare will be delayed until after the election, the sneaky so-and-sos.

(4) China and Japan will come to blows (at least one death) over disputed territories in the Pacific and South China Seas. “Tensions will rise”, but both sides will calm themselves afterwards. No full-scale war this year.

(5) No terrorist attacks anywhere near the winter Olympics in Russia. Putin will crush the growing revolt quietly but violently, and within the next three weeks.

(6) The government will get caught using information on an individual or group which it could have only come by immorally or unconstitutionally, as for instance via the NSA or TSA, but the majority of citizens won’t care. What about the children!

Update (7) Now that we have elected our first avowedly socialist mayor, we will see an increase in crime this (and the next four) year. Defined as an increase in rates over the majority of major tracked crimes (murder, theft, rape, etc.).

How’d We Do On Our 2013 Predictions?

The Farmer’s Almanac is tied with GCMs for accuracy of their predictions.

We have proved yet again that the future is that undiscovered country with our predictions for 2013. See the original guesses here.

Don’t make new predictions here. Tomorrow I’ll start the thread, open for 10 days, where you can make predictions for 2014.

The winner was chosen for accuracy and difficulty. No use predicting, for instance, “The New York Times will continue to apologize for President Obama even should he be exposed as an ax murderer” because anybody could have guessed that.

We all missed predicting the big events, such as the election of a new Pope and his (temporary?) triumph over the media. The events in the Middle East went in directions not anticipated. The Boston Marathon bombing wasn’t forecasted. Neither were the recent happenings in Russia. Tornadoes were at their nadir. George Zimmerman was acquitted. The Supreme Court told half of Americans that they were hate-filled bigots. NSA announced they were spying on everybody for their own good—and the populace yawned. And so forth.

In the end, it was a close. Though none of us sparkled, the person who best captured the spirit and direction of the world was Sheri (bottom of page). I award her the crown based on one prediction that wasn’t even fully correct: “Pedophilia will be ‘normalized’.”

It wasn’t, not fully, not yet. But the reason it will be, equality, is the driving force of Western Civilization. Equality is the most destructive force known to man. You know I am right if you felt even a small cringe at the word “man” in the previous sentence. All will be, must be, equal. None can be unique, none can be superior, and how dare you think otherwise.


Here are the individual predictions. I’m only quoting the serious forecasts.


(1) “More human beings will die from cold than from heat in 2013”. Nailed it. In the running for this year’s Irony of the Year Award: “Global warming scientists forced to admit defeat… because of too much ice.

(2) “[Obamacare] mandate will be relaxed for employers and corporations.” Yes!

(3) “Low-hanging-fruit economic prediction: the debt of the USA will soar to new heights.” Raise the debt ceiling, anybody?

(4) We’d become sheeple. “Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” Almost there.

Kevin B

(1) “The long awaited break up of the euro, (and the EU), will still not occur.” It did not.

(2) “The US and European economies will continue their anaemic ‘growth’, but all of this ‘growth’ will be in the public sector.” Long live the government!

(3) “A row will break out among scientists over whether the obesity epidemic is caused by a bacterium or by a poor lifestyle.” Missed this one, but barely, I think.

(4) “The great global warming/climate change/climate extremes/whatever debate will rumble on.” It did, but no points for such an easy guess.

Don B

(1) “Highway accidents will kill more people than assault weapons, yet, unbelievably, automobiles will not be outlawed.” Right on the money, but easy!

(2) “While scientific evidence grows that global warming, if it resumes, will not be catastrophic, the Summary for Policy Makers will be as alarmist as ever.” Indeed, it was more alarmist: 95% confidence!

(3) “Republicans will allow tax rates to automatically rise, as we go over the fiscal cliff, so that they can vote to lower those higher rates to a level which is greater than they are presently.” Not quite there, although Republicans proved once more that they are nothing but Democrats with frowns.

Big Mike

(1) “Evil will continue to sow the seeds of its own destruction, and the brilliant rays of truth, beauty and goodness, visible to all those who dare open their eyes, will continue to perforate the gloom and act as shining beacons to those brave enough to use them as their guides.” Got it, but talk about low-hanging fruit.

Jim Atkinson

(1) “Bill McKibben will be discovered to be eating Meat Pizza’s cooked in a Coal fired oven he has installed in an old diesel powered Yellow School Bus that he uses to commune with the trees in remote Vermont valleys that never get any snowfall.” McKibben still thinks it’s worse than we thought.

Vinny Burgoo

(1) “Floods in Pakistan will again be tied to global warming.” Yep.

(2) “The floods will kill about a tenth of the number of people killed by terrorism in Pakistan.” Right (as near as I can tell).

(3) “A young man will attack a school in the US, killing about ten people, mostly women and children.” I don’t think we had any this year.

(4) “Young men will blow up about 100 schools in Pakistan, killing about ten people, mostly women and children.” Missed.

(5) “Towards the end of the year, John Vidal will visit a farm in Herefordshire.” I Googled this but could not find confirmation.

(6) “Bo Derek will visit Ecuador again.” Doesn’t look it. She made it to Portugal.

(7) “Chile’s Mount Melimoyu will erupt.” It didn’t.

Doug M

(1) “We fall off the fiscal cliff on 1/1 and no one notices.” Half right. Over the cliff we went, but some of us went screaming.

(2) “GDP growth for the year will be positive.” Final numbers aren’t in, but this is a solid.


(1) “Iran will perform a nuclear test shot in North Korea.” A miss, but not too far off in spirit.

(2) “Syria will end up under the control of radical Islamists of a sort favored by the Saudis.” Russia stopped this.

(3) “Nothing of substance will be revealed about the Benghazi incident.” Hillary: what difference does it make?

(4) “Unemployment in the USA will spike savagely, although the government will do what it can to camouflage the problem with BS as the economy.” Half right. Unemployment didn’t spike, but the government did play with the numbers.

(5) “Civil unrest of a kind and degree not seen since the Depression will appear in the USA and increase.” Didn’t happen, thank goodness.

(6) “Texas, Louisiana, and perhaps other states will take strong measures to counteract federal influence and protect themselves.” Call this a partial hit. Some states ran as fast as they could from Obamacare, for instance.

(7) “Obama will sieze the moment and attempt to ram through gun control and various extreme leftist measures, sidestepping Congress and ignoring the Constitution.” Call this 90% right. Obama repeatedly expressed exasperation that he could rule dictatorially.

Heltau (A non-native English writer, I think; I corrected his spelling.)

(1) “2 cities will be attacked by Islams.” More than two.

(2) “Tens of thousands of people will be slaughtered by the ‘peace and light religion of Islam’.” Depends on how you count (do we total the bodies in Syria?), but it’s close.

(3) “Sharia law will be applied throughout America as a helping hand in killing the ‘living Constitution’.” If this was England, it would be a partial hit.

(4) “Christian churches will be attacked and set afire by Islams and the church’s leaders will forgive Islam for their acts.” Half right. Many churches attacked and Christians killed. No word on forgiveness yet.

(5) “And tomatoes will be 5 dollars a pound.” Not in the States, anyway.


(1) “The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013 will be awarded to a US citizen.” Is Canada still considered a foreign country? Alice Munro won.

(2) “The Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 will be awarded to a non-US citizen or organization.” Nailed it. The Nobel committee previously gave the award to a building in Brussels. This time to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

(3) “The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2013 will be awarded to a person from Europe.” Peter Higgs is, somehow, not an American.


(1) “Wiggins will win the Giro d’italia.” Nope.

(2) “Froome will win the Tour de France.” Yep.

(3) “ANTIFRAGILE: THINGS THAT GAIN FROM DISORDER by Taleb won’t make #1 on the NYT.” I think was right.

(4) “Fewer fatalities will occur on Mt. Everest than last year.” Yes, but apparently this was an easy one.


(1) “The Great Recession will deepen and continue.” It didn’t deepen, but much malaise yet.

(2) “Turkey will start to position itself as a counter to Iran.” No, but strange things happening there. Keep an eye out.

(3) “Patriots will lose Superbowl.” Did they even play?

(4) “Red Sox will lose in post season on a wildcard. Yankees will not make it into post-season.” Half right. Dammit, says this Tigers fan.

(5) “China will have violent protests against variously communism and capitalism, not enough to be called a revolt or uprising but too much to be ignored by the international community.” Yes. But not too violent.

(6) “Chile will emerge as the hot new SA economy predicted to become the USA of South America.” A prediction of a prediction?

(7) “Municipal bankruptcies in the US will take off, expect over 20 significant ones by the end of the year.” Right in spirit, but I think the number a tad high. California in particular saw a few.


(1) “Winter in the Northern Hemisphere will not end till mid June.” Nope. But stick around for this winter.

(2) “First week of September will be the Northern Hemisphere’s hottest for 200 years.” Nope.

(3) “Winter will start early in N. Hemisphere on September 28 2013.” Too vague, but it was early.

(4) “A volcanic eruption off the coast of Antarctica will cause some public unrest at the end of the year.” Nope.

(5) “China and Japan will come to arms over some insignificant South China Sea islands.” Very close. Maybe this year the fireworks begin.

(6) “Someone shoots at the US President — FBI hugely criticized.” Now, now.


(1) “In 2013, with the city Detroit finding it has no support of a winning MLB team, has announced it will be relocating. Current choice is San Francisco.” This isn’t too far off.


(1) “Detroit will make a comeback, so is American economy partly due to the increasing number of rich people in China who prefer products made in USA.” Should have listened to DAV.

(2) “The debt-to-GDP ratio will decrease.” If by “decrease” you meant “increase”, you’re exactly right.


(1) “The drought will continue in the Midwest.” In the summer it did.

(2) “The government and the Fed will continue to maintain a zero-interest-rate policy by printing money.” Too easy.

(3) “Inflation in food prices will be even worse in the coming year. By the end of the year, $200/week or more will be considered normal for groceries for a small family.” From this accurate prediction, we guess Joe does not work in academia.

(4) “At least one U.S. state will declare bankruptcy.” Nope.

(5) “At least one state will vote to ‘nullify’ major provisions of the Obamacare law.” Not quite, but close.

(6) “The Israelis will re-elect Netanyahu.” Yep.

(7) “Israel will find itself at war with one or more of Egypt, Turkey, or Iran.” Not yet, anyway.

(8) “Bing will start to get more search traffic than Google.” Let me tell you about the dangers of drinking and predicting…

(9) “Facebook will not go out of business in 2013, but it will be in serious trouble by the end of the year and at least one major publication will be predicting its imminent eclipsing by some rapidly-growing rival.” Snapchat is at its heels.

(10) “New Jersey and Virginia will elect Democrat governors.” That depends on how you classify Chris Christie.

(11) “Rush Limbaugh will retire. Mark Steyn will become a full-time talk radio host.” Two solid misses.

(12) “There will be a terrorist incident somewhere involving a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.” I don’t think so.

(13) “There will be at least one major conservative victory in the Supreme Court, and Obama will talk about it obsessively for months.” Sadly, no. Not even a hint of one. Nothing but bad news all around.

(14) “The E.U. will try to ‘legally’ ‘force’ Ireland to legalize abortion. Ireland will refuse.” A bust, but only because Ireland beat the EU to it.


(1) “I foresee the Angels making it to the World Series, and they might even win.” Let me guess which is your favorite team.

(2) “The Jacksonville Jaguars bring Tim Tebow on board as a backup quarterback and have a .500 season.” Nah.

(3) “The brain damaged apes we call Congress and the well meaning lackeys we call the Federal Government will prevent any real recovery.” Yes, but too easy.

(4) “Gasoline will cost more than $4.20 a gallon by the end of the year.” Looks to be lower.

(5) “The Islamic Brotherhood will consolidate power in Egypt, seriously threaten war will Israel or send troops into Gaza but the Egyptian Army will not quite cooperate. This will lead to a power struggle and purge of the military. Israel will not actually be attacked by soldiers.” Glad you were wrong on this one.

(6) “Assad of Syria will flee to Iran. Hamid Karzai will not be running Afghanistan by the end of 2013.” Two misses.

(7) “The media (and the Taliban) will portray the US leaving Afghanistan as another Vietnam. ” Might be true if we actually left.

(8) “The artificial pancreas will be announced and diabetes will be cured.” A cheerfully wrong prediction.


(1) “In spite of Obamacare, the infant death rate will not budge much from 6 per 1000 live births.” Correct: 6.14.

(2) “‘Peer progressive’ will join ‘creative class’ in the popular lexicon.” Right, more or less


(1) “Julia Gillard will not be Prime Minister of Australia by the end of the year.” Yes, thank God.

(2) “The increasing tension in the South China Sea area will see an increase in US forces based in Australia.” Near hit. Increased US forces in the area, but not in Australia.

(3) “The Australian economy will still be strong with the Aussie dollar still buying more than one US dollar.” Well, the Aussie dollar fell with respect to the US dollar over 2013.


(1) “Pedophilia will be ‘normalized’.” Almost. Make the same prediction for 2014 and we’ll see.

(2) “The Congressional Budget will continue to look like a crayon drawing of a 2 year old.” Too high by a year.

(3) “The blurring of political parties will continue, with ‘Republicans’ and ‘Those who vote with Democrats’ being the labels used.” Spot on.

I Have What You Would Call A Theoretical Basis: Gender As A Construct

There are no winners in this story.

So this Norwegian comedian (at least, I think he is) has created a series of videos called Hjernevask (Brainwashing) in which he sets out and asks whether, for instance, sexual differences are innate or created by society, as in the video below. (The videos, it must be admitted, are boring and certainly not comprehensive inquiries into their subject matter; plus the host is bit of pest and interviews or picks on the same academics across multiple episodes.)

Now this is a question so silly only an academic can ask it because until recently it has always been obvious to everybody in all places and in all times that men and women are different. They think differently than one another, they act differently, they certainly operate differently. Not always. Of course not always. Not in every facet of behavior. Of course not in every behavior. But in many ways that count the two sexes are foreigners. Yes, a person’s environment plays a role, but a constrained one. We are not blank slates. Vive la différence! says anybody whose head is screwed on tightly.

Anyway, one of the current follies embraced by a sizable chunk of academia is that “gender is a construct.” This is the claim that boys act like boys not because they are boys but because society has taught them to act like boys. If the myriad subtle and pervasive societal prejudices which turn boys into boys were not in place, boys might act like girls, and girls like boys. There would be no telling the difference between one or the other, except in the showers. But even here, there’d be no telling the innies from the outies—at least, nobody would in good taste publicly recognize these anomalies.

Do we need to point out the central tenet of gender-as-construct is faulty? After all, how do we know boys act like boys? I mean, how do we know these young people are acting like boys unless we know that this is how boys and not girls act? It is because we have characterized and classified the behaviors of mini-humans with outies in every culture and time and said, “This is how boys act” and then forced boys to act according to this catalog? But then how do we know to “construct” the behavior of an outie except by noting he is an outie? It’s easy to get lost in this tangle.

Academic feminists admit there are observed differences between the sexes but claim these are not true differences. They say it is largely men who enforce the observed differences. So is this enforcement a true difference? I mean, are men better at being gender bullies? If so, then there are true differences. Or is it that women are just as good at being gender bullies but that men out-bullied them? Wait…

The whole thing is ridiculous. So exasperating is it that a second group of scientists, doubting their commonsense, were forced into proving what everybody already knew what was true, that biological differences between the sexes exist. The video quotes some of this research, and if you have some free time you can listen. Evolution says this-and-so; testosterone is responsible in such-and-such a way; measurements of day-old newborns reveal “gender” differences; that sort of thing.

The videographer put this hard evidence to two gender-as-construct academics and asked them the key question (I’m paraphrasing) “What scientific evidence do you have that gender differences are not biological?”

The female academic said (at 34:28)—and here my spit take was as dramatic as John Boehner’s when they asked him for a statement in support of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson—“I have what you would call a theoretical basis. There is no room for biology in there for me.” The male academic (sporting a becoming single earring) after denying the scientific evidence existed said, “My hypothesis is that there are [no biological differences].”

And there you have it. Theory trumps reality. The desire that something be true is turned into a theory, and the theory is all that survives, a pseudo-scientific mask for the desire. The theory is immune to corruption, it is too beautiful to abandon.

“Equality” is a destructive force.

Don’t believe it? How many boys are on drugs for being too boy-like? One in four, five? How many boys punished by idiotic “educators” who can’t tell weapons from fingers? It’s all too depressing.


Thanks to André van Delft (@AndreVanDelft) for alerting us to this video.

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