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March 14, 2012

Patriots Reportedly lose Superbowl, but Questions about Score Persist

Category: Climate Change – Tom Harrison – 9:36 am

On Sunday February 5th, 2012, the New England Patriots were said to have lost to the New York Giants by a score of 21 to 17. The game was recorded and watched by millions of people. But questions continue to linger as to whether the score as reported by the NFL, and it’s business partners in the media, is accurate.

These sorts of questions have been raised by football experts, not just in this year’s contest, but, according to some reports, for all prior Super Bowls. Dismissed as “ridiculous” by mainstream followers of the sport, the evidence supports a consistent and nagging uncertainty about the veracity of Super Bowl scores, and researchers have found the inconsistency may be endemic, not just in professional football, but in other sports as well.

Sports Score Deniers

Roger L. Verisim holds a PhD from Rutgers University in Astrophysics, and reported within minutes of the game’s conclusion, “No way. There’s simply no way the Patriots could have lost this game. It’s impossible.” Additional reporting suggests that many other scientists who also observed the game made similar assertions of lack of confidence in reported outcomes, including “Unbelievable”, “Ridiculous”, and “Beyond belief”.

An analysis by The Kraft Group of the statements suggests strong correlation to the temporal proximity of the statements to the time period in which the game was played. Scientists and analysts have clearly demonstrated that observational recollection is more accurate relative to the time of the event, often by as much as 46% over the course of several weeks. This phenomenon has been shown to be reinforced by social factors, in particular, consistent repetition of falsehood.

Eyewitness Fallacy

In one experiment, study participants were shown to have their accurate recollections altered by repeated assertion by experimenters of an alternate outcome. In this case, many (although not all) news organizations and other media outlets quickly reported the asserted final score of the Super Bowl, leading all but a few of the more determined to accept the reported findings as fact. Yet researchers report this as normal human response. One characterized such false beliefs as “group think”, indicating this kind of phenomenon is common, both in our present day world, and throughout human history.

Estimates suggest that even in cases where greater than 99% of subjects report “complete certainty”, a persistent cohort is able to ignore the distortion of facts and retain their conviction in the truth. Studies in criminology suggest that eyewitness accounts are as often incorrect as correct, especially when dealing with subtle numerical details such as height, weight, distance and so on. One can presume this kind of phenomenon translates to game scoring confusion.

So for now, the actual score of the game remains unclear. The Kraft Group will submit its findings and report within the next several months, but has indicated that there are a sufficient number of “irregularities” to warrant significant doubt about the reported outcome.

(All of the above is false and baseless. It is not intended to be a statement of fact.)

And Now, in Unrelated News…

The New York Times reports today that “Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S.”. After reporting the primary findings, the report goes on to say:

..the ocean could rise a foot over the next 40 years, though that calculation is not universally accepted among climate scientists.

The handful of climate researchers who question the scientific consensus about global warming do not deny that the ocean is rising. But they often assert that the rise is a result of natural climate variability, they dispute that the pace is likely to accelerate, and they say that society will be able to adjust to a continuing slow rise.

Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group, said that “as a society, we could waste a fair amount of money on preparing for sea level rise if we put our faith in models that have no forecasting ability.”

Several paragraphs later, “Insurance companies got out of the business of writing flood insurance decades ago…”.

(The above is a true accounting of the New York Times article published today).

Money, Mouth

I have a proposal for the free-enterprise-minded Competitive Enterprise Institute: put your money where your mouth is. If you believe the models have no forecasting ability, then they can only predict as much chance that sea levels will rise as not. Thus, there’s a good chance they will not rise, and perhaps CEI should decide to promote and support an insurance company that would base its rates on the level of risk, and thus make a great profit. One thinks it’s rather odd that market-based companies such as insurance have not found this profitable. Go figure.

At what point did respected news organizations like the New York Times feel an obligation to devote about 20% of an article on a scientific finding to reports about a group having little or no scientific basis for retort (CEI is not a science research organization, and Ebell has a masters degree from the London School of Economics)?

1 Comment

  1. > “At what point did respected news organizations like the New York Times feel an obligation to devote about 20% of an article on a scientific finding to reports about a group having little or no scientific basis for retort”

    I don’t know, but they (NYT) should be ashamed. Our news media are often very bad about science reporting. Most news teams understand they need experts on finance, business, politics, sport (most definitely sport experts! Yes, and lots of them!!), but seem to think they don’t need to understand science to report it.

    Also the media seems to be programmed to think there are “two sides to everything”, and that they have to “balance” them. It is sort-of true in sport, not true as often as they think in politics, and rarely true in science. On the one hand, if you heat ice, it melts. On the other hand… no, there is not other hand. It always melts. End of story. No need to find an accountant who is paid to tell you that sometimes ice does not melt when heated.

    In sport – if you score more goals than the other team, you win. End of story. In business, if your machine runs faster, you make more widgets per hour. End of story. WTF?

    Comment by Glyn Garside — November 19, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

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