Next: Financial Modeling Up: 11. Projects to Ponder Previous: Sports and Games

# People Prediction

• Election Prediction - Mathematical models abound in politics. Properly interpreting the results of a scientific poll involves serious statistical analysis to remove polling biases. For example, telephone polls will oversample retired and unemployed people as they are more likely to be there to pick up the phone.

A famous model to predict the outcome of United States Presidential elections was ``As Maine goes, so goes the nation''. This become ``As Maine goes, so goes Vermont'' after the 1936 election, where those two New England states accounted for all of Alf Landon's 8 electoral votes against Franklin Roosevelt. Developing a more accurate predictor is an interesting project. Check out Fair's economic model http://fairmodel.econ.yale.edu/, which has missed only two presidential elections between 1916 and 1992. This site also contains information on economic models to predict the stock market and other things.

• Distribution of First Names - First names fall in and out of fashion, due to the strange combination of forces effecting popular culture. Steven was the 10th most popular boys name in 1961, but we dropped to 47th by 1999. Jacob was the 35th most popular boys name in the 1980's, but on top by 1999. Can you predict the ten most popular boys/girls first names for next year from previous years statistics? Extensive data on the popularity of yesteryear's names is available from the Social Security Administration WWW site, at http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/NOTES/note139/note139.html

• Distribution of Last Names - Traditionally, children are given the last name of the father. Last names can and do become extinct when families do not produce sufficient numbers of male heirs. The Skiena line in the United States, which started with only Sol Skiena in 1911, has expanded 19 as of this writing. But our ultimate survival cannot be guaranteed.

What is the expected number of generations until a last name with n people out of a population of m becomes extinct? How should the number of distinct last names in a population decrease as a function of time? Similar issues arise in biodiversity studies with respect to animal species. What explains the non-uniform popularity of certain last names? Is it a phenomena due to largely to chance, or is it due to other factors such as immigration?

The U. S. Census Bureau posts the frequencies of the 88,800 most popular last names, according to the 1990 census, at http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/. These account for only 90.483% of the population, and the Skiena's are nowhere to be found. From this data, can you estimate many distinct last names there are in the United States?

 I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from Calculated Bets: Computers, Gambling, and Mathematical Modeling to Win!, by Steven Skiena, copublished by Cambridge University Press and the Mathematical Association of America. This is a book about a gambling system that works. It tells the story of how the author used computer simulation and mathematical modeling techniques to predict the outcome of jai-alai matches and bet on them successfully -- increasing his initial stake by over 500% in one year! His method can work for anyone: at the end of the book he tells the best way to watch jai-alai, and how to bet on it. With humor and enthusiasm, Skiena details a life-long fascination with the computer prediction of sporting events. Along the way, he discusses other gambling systems, both successful and unsuccessful, for such games as lotto, roulette, blackjack, and the stock market. Indeed, he shows how his jai-alai system functions just like a miniature stock trading system. Do you want to learn about program trading systems, the future of Internet gambling, and the real reason brokerage houses don't offer mutual funds that invest at racetracks and frontons? How mathematical models are used in political polling? The difference between correlation and causation? If you are curious about gambling and mathematics, odds are this is the book for you! This book is available in both hardcover and paperback.

Next: Financial Modeling Up: 11. Projects to Ponder Previous: Sports and Games
Steve Skiena
2001-06-04