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Thursday, February 05, 2009

How Did I Do?


I'm sure you remember that at the beginning of 2008, I made a list of 22 predictions for the coming year.  (Or rather, I hope you remember... I completely forgot.)

Although it's already February, I guess now is a good time to look back at how I did:

1. The winner of the United States presidential election will be a tall, good-looking man. Or will at least be the tallest and/or best-looking of the available candidates. He will be a Church-going Christian.

Well we all know who won the 2008 US presidential election: President Barack Obama (woohoo!). Let's look at all the things I predicted about him:

[He] will be a tall, good-looking man. 
President Obama is 186cm tall. That's about 8cm taller than your average African American male (and about 9cm shorter than I am... FYI). That makes him pretty tall. In fact it makes him a full 13cm taller than his rival, Senator John McCain.

As for good-looking, you decide:
I think it's pretty clear which of these two men is better looking. And yes, despite rumours to the contrary, President Obama is, in fact, a Church-going Christian.

Okay, so that's one hit so far.

2. Scientists will make startling new discoveries about Dark Matter and/or Dark Energy that will threaten to overturn our understanding of the cosmos.
Well, not really. While there were a bunch of interesting stories about discoveries relating to Dark Matter and Dark Energy in 2008, none of them really came close to threatening to overturn our understanding of the cosmos. While some psychics might claim it as a hit, I'll take it as a miss.

3. The South-East coastal regions of the United States will be lashed by several severe storms during the summer.

That was an easy hit. There were seventeen such storms.

4. Many people will be left homeless and some will be killed in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and parts of Mozambique in the first quarter of the year as a result of floods.
5. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people will die in natural disasters (such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or tsunami) in the Pacific regions and parts of the Middle-East.
6. Danie Krugel will not acknowledge our challenge.
I have no web links to back this one up, but I assure you it was a hit.

7. Astronomers will discover many new exoplanets and identify several new places where life might exist.
Fifty new exoplanets were discovered in 2008. And one new place where life might exist was identified: Enceladus. Hit!
8. I will complete my 29th trip around the sun.
Hit! In fact right now I'm well into the second half of my 30th trip!

Next I made a cluster of four related predictions:

9. The petrol price will increase substantially after the oil price increases.
10.The petrol price will increase substantially after the oil price decreases.
11. The petrol price will increase substantially after the Rand/Dollar exchange rate improves.
12. The petrol price will increase substantially after the exchange rate worsens.

The gist of the first two was that the fluctuations in the petrol price were not related to fluctuations in the oil price.


You can see in the graph above that the petrol price (blue line) does seem to track more-or-less with fluctuations in the price of Brent Crude (red line). So I'll give myself one hit for that one.

The next two made a similar claim with regards to the Rand/Dollar exchange rate.

As you can see, there is virtually no link between the Rand/Dollar and the petrol price, despite the frequent claims to the contrary. I think I deserve two hits for that one.
13. A prominent South African government official will be accused of fraud or misappropriation of funds, but those accusations will disappear and never result in formal charges.
I wasn't able to find any specific examples of this, but considering the ANC's decision in 2008 to disband the Scorpions, they have effectively all gotten away with any and all corrupt and fraudulent activities they may have committed (and probably did commit). I didn't get the details right, and I severely underestimated the scope of what was going on. That being the case, I'll take another miss on this one.
14. A formerly obscure website will suddenly become very popular, prompting "experts" to claim that it will drastically change the way we communicate or do business.
One word: Twitter. Hit.
15. It will not substantially affect the way we communicate or do business
I'm still using Facebook. And Email. And IM. And the telephone. What about you?
Hit.
16. The South African Reserve Bank will increase the prime lending rate.
Tricky. Prime was increased in June 2008, but then it was lowered again to it's former level in December. I didn't say that they wouldn't lower it again, I suppose, so I'll generously grant myself another hit.
17. It will be revealed that Iran was never attempting to produce nuclear weapons. This will not prevent President Bush from claiming that Iran is a major threat.
Miss.
18. A number of people will be trampled to death by a crowd in Saudi Arabia in the last weeks of the year.
Close, but it's a miss.
19. Israel will engage in violent encounters with its neighbours. There will be casualties on both sides, but Israel will report that they have fewer than the other side.
Hit. 330 to 4 at last count.

20. The flying car will not be released to the consumer market.
21. A woman in either North Africa or the Middle East will be treated to unfathomable cruelty after breaking an oppressive and misogynistic law. She will then be pardoned after significant international pressure is exerted on her government. The law will not be changed.
Miss. She wasn't pardoned.
22. The world as we know it will not end.

That was a fun game, wasn't it? I scored 16/22. I win!

The point of this whole exercise was to demonstrate that with a little bit of common-sense, some vagueness, a dash of general knowledge and a touch of science, it's quite easy to make a set of predictions with a high rate of accuracy. No psychic powers necessary!