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Avaragado’s 2014 predictions – results

Good grief, is it that time again? I’ve barely posted anything on my blog this year. Still, at today’s regular New Year’s Eve lunch official adjudicator Chris Walsh revealed just how appallingly inaccurate my 2014 predictions were. Here are the gory details – commentary etc in square brackets.

News

  1. ✓ In the referendum on independence, Scotland votes No. [Correct!]
  2. ✗ Brazil grants asylum to Edward Snowden. [Nope: still in Russia.]
  3. ✗ The Lib Dems replace Nick Clegg as leader. [Nope.]
  4. ✓ UKIP wins more MEPs in the European Parliamentary Elections than the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems. [Yes, considering the parties separately, not the combined total of the other parties.]
  5. ✗ An iconic building or monument is damaged in a freak/climate change weather event. [Couldn’t find anything.]
  6. ✗ Paul Dacre leaves his position as chief bigot/editor at the Daily Mail. [Nope.]
  7. ✗ More than 50% of Daily Express front page main headlines are about the weather. [Thought expressbingo.org.uk would have the answer, but it seems to stop on 5th Feb 2014. www.thepaperboy.com has front pages going back to September 2014. Taking all front pages from those sites, 22 out of 96 have weather-related headlines, which is 23%. Extrapolating: nope.]

[Score: 2/7]

Sport

  1. ½ Brazil win the World Cup. England don’t qualify from the group stage. [Chris ignored the bit about England and awarded no points. David thinks he deserves half a point.]
  2. ✗ Liverpool win the FA Premier League. [Manchester City.]
  3. ✗ Team GB win exactly one medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. [1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze.]
  4. ✗ Andy Murray loses in the semi-final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon. [Lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-final.]
  5. ✗ Wales win the rugby union Six Nations tournament. [Ireland.]
  6. ✗ Johnny Brownlee wins the ITU World Triathlon Series. [Third, behind Javier Gomez and Mario Mola.]

[Score: 0.5/6]

Science and technology

  1. ✓ Steve Ballmer is replaced as CEO of Microsoft by Satya Nadella. [Yes, on February 4.]
  2. ✗ The crew of the International Space Station is evacuated because of orbital debris. [Nope.]
  3. ✗ Apple announces a “revolutionary” (in their words) new TV device. [Nope.]
  4. ✗ The Nobel prize for physics is won by someone in the field of quantum computing/communication. [Nope: Blue LEDs]
  5. ✗ Google buys Oculus VR. [In March, Facebook agreed to acquire Oculus VR.]
  6. ✗ Webcam video of a celebrity, obtained covertly by an intelligence agency, leaks on the internet. [Don’t think so.]

[Score: 1/6]

Entertainment

  1. ✓ Best picture at the Oscars: 12 Years a Slave. [Yes.]
  2. ✗ Best actor at the Oscars: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave. [Nope: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club]
  3. ✗ Best actress at the Oscars: Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks. [Nope: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Emma Thompson wasn’t even nominated.]
  4. ✓ Bruce Forsyth stops presenting Strictly Come Dancing. [Yep.]
  5. ✓ The BBC reboots a classic 1970s sitcom (eg Dad’s Army). [A film of Dad’s Army is in production, unrelated to the BBC, but the BBC has broadcast Still Open All Hours, based on the old sitcom Open All Hours.]
  6. ½ In one of those “celebrities doing stuff” shows (Splash, Strictly, Dancing on Wolves, etc) a celebrity does stuff that results in a nasty injury on live TV. [Some TOWIE woman received various bruises. Stretching the definitions of both “celebrity” and “nasty”: half a point.]

[Score: 3.5/6]

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. ✗ His Racist Highness Prince Philip, 92
  2. ✗ Nobel Peace Prize winner and war criminal Henry Kissinger, 90
  3. ✗ Thatcher defenestrator Lord (Geoffrey) Howe, 87
  4. ✓ Swivel-eyed Ulster firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, 87 [Died September 12th]
  5. ✗ Oh no, it’s Yoko Ono, 80
  6. ✗ Fifties teen idol and Half a Sixpence crooner Tommy Steele, 77
  7. ✗ Much better than the last one Pope Francis, 77
  8. ✗ Founder of CNN and all-round not-Murdoch Ted Turner, 75
  9. ✗ Nobody did it better than Carly Simon, 68
  10. ✗ Free software evangelist and beardy gnu-lover Richard Stallman, 60
  11. ✗ Wayward ex-gurner and Gazza Paul Gascoigne, 46
  12. ✗ Apprentice self-firing rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, 38

[Score: 1/12]

[Total score: 8/37]

Not as good as previous years: a dismal 22%. Overall, the predictions were far too bold. But some of them were very close, in particular the Oculus VR purchase. Ah well.

Coming soon: 2015. And also, by coincidence, my predictions for 2015.

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Anecdata on media, science and society

Anecdata!

Data Point: On Newsnight recently Cambridge’s Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, David Spiegelhalter, stunned Jeremy Paxman by informing him that unemployment figures are an estimate, not a count, and they’re only accurate to ±100,000.

Do you remember ever seeing an error bar when unemployment figures are announced? Or hearing any journalist correct a politician crowing that unemployment has dropped by a number like 27,000, well within the margin of error?

Data Point: Barely any mainstream publications or news shows have covered the Edward Snowden/NSA/GCHQ revelations properly. Even “GCHQ is watching you and your children on webcams and storing images, including sexual content” didn’t make the TV news that day. I asked the Channel 4 News editor why not: he didn’t reply. One of the presenters did, though:

That edition did find room, however, for an interview about the Daily Mail’s attempt to smear various Labour politicians for events of almost 40 years ago. And they also ran a report on the decline of the barn owl population.

As far as I’m aware only the Guardian covered that story on the front page the next day. Not even a single “Big Brother is watching you” headline.

Data Point: Channel 4 News ignored the Guardian’s report that PA Consulting uploaded 27 DVDs of NHS England hospital data to Google. That’s the entire NHS hospital database for England, tens of millions of patient records, uploaded to servers outside the UK, by management consultants, without patient consent.

While I wouldn’t expect it to have led the news during the Ukraine/Russia standoff the same day, I certainly expected a report before a story about an athlete on trial for murder, or about the previous night’s Oscars. Instead, Channel 4 News made no mention of it at all. Again, I tweeted the editor. Again, no response.

Data Point: Broadcasters including the BBC often insist on a false balance when covering climate change. Nigel Lawson is not a climate scientist, and can only bluster and assert when debating an actual climate scientist presenting actual evidence, but still their positions are presented as equally valid by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, as if climate change is a matter of political opinion rather than scientific observation and method. At least the BBC isn’t as bad as some other media organisations, which have an editorial policy of man-made climate change denial.

Nigel Says Relax

Data Point: By my countQuestion Time has included only three scientist panellists for the entirety of the parliament so far — Colin Blakemore once and Robert Winston twice (I’m not counting tech-related entrepreneurs like Jimmy Wales). That’s three scientists from 147 editions at time of writing, or 0.004% of all 743 panellists.

(In the same period, Question Time has featured two singers, four poets, seventeen comedians, twenty actors, thirty-five businesspeople and over 120 journalists. Yes, I’ve counted. Nigel Farage has appeared ten times — the same number as Kenneth Clarke. Farage does well belonging to a party with no MPs, doesn’t he?)

End of anecdata!

What to make from all that? Gell-Mann Amnesia applies, as it always does. Journalists misrepresent everything, yet we only seem to think they misrepresent subjects we’re familiar with. The chances are the reporters overlooking the City of London and outside the Old Bailey are bluffing their way through to hit a deadline just as much as the Technology Correspondent is.

But I have to say: I think mainstream media’s lack of understanding of science and technology is actively harming society.

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Avaragado’s 2014 predictions

Here they are: the 2014 predictions literally everyone hasn’t been waiting for. Please return regularly to check my progress and coincidentally bump the readership stats on my blog to make me feel better.

News

  1. In the referendum on independence, Scotland votes No.
  2. Brazil grants asylum to Edward Snowden.
  3. The Lib Dems replace Nick Clegg as leader.
  4. UKIP wins more MEPs in the European Parliamentary Elections than the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.
  5. An iconic building or monument is damaged in a freak/climate change weather event.
  6. Paul Dacre leaves his position as chief bigot/editor at the Daily Mail.
  7. More than 50% of Daily Express front page main headlines are about the weather.

Sport

  1. Brazil win the World Cup. England don’t qualify from the group stage.
  2. Liverpool win the FA Premier League.
  3. Team GB win exactly one medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
  4. Andy Murray loses in the semi-final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon.
  5. Wales win the rugby union Six Nations tournament.
  6. Johnny Brownlee wins the ITU World Triathlon Series.

Science and technology

  1. Steve Ballmer is replaced as CEO of Microsoft by Satya Nadella.
  2. The crew of the International Space Station is evacuated because of orbital debris.
  3. Apple announces a “revolutionary” (in their words) new TV device.
  4. The Nobel prize for physics is won by someone in the field of quantum computing/communication.
  5. Google buys Oculus VR.
  6. Webcam video of a celebrity, obtained covertly by an intelligence agency, leaks on the internet.

Entertainment

  1. Best picture at the Oscars: 12 Years a Slave.
  2. Best actor at the Oscars: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave.
  3. Best actress at the Oscars: Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks.
  4. Bruce Forsyth stops presenting Strictly Come Dancing.
  5. The BBC reboots a classic 1970s sitcom (eg Dad’s Army).
  6. In one of those “celebrities doing stuff” shows (Splash, Strictly, Dancing on Wolves, etc) a celebrity does stuff that results in a nasty injury on live TV.

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. His Racist Highness Prince Philip, 92
  2. Nobel Peace Prize winner and war criminal Henry Kissinger, 90
  3. Thatcher defenestrator Lord (Geoffrey) Howe, 87
  4. Swivel-eyed Ulster firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, 87
  5. Oh no, it’s Yoko Ono, 80
  6. Fifties teen idol and Half a Sixpence crooner Tommy Steele, 77
  7. Much better than the last one Pope Francis, 77
  8. Founder of CNN and all-round not-Murdoch Ted Turner, 75
  9. Nobody did it better than Carly Simon, 68
  10. Free software evangelist and beardy gnu-lover Richard Stallman, 60
  11. Wayward ex-gurner and Gazza Paul Gascoigne, 46
  12. Apprentice self-firing rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, 38

Based on the pattern of previous years I’m expecting to get about 40% right. Join me this time next year to find out whether I’ve got that prediction wrong too.

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