Models…..What are they and what are they good for? – Part 2

michaeljordanIn the last article about sports models I talked about how as human beings we can often find patterns in randomness. I want to talk a little more about this in the real world.

One of my friends recently had a baby which they named “Jordan”. Its cool to give surnames as first names at the moment, and even better it gives me an excuse to post a picture of the great man (as opposed to the “great” women) . Thing is, even though Jordan was born, I had no idea if it were little Jordan boy or a little Jordan girl.

So on further perusal, my friend said, “of course he’s a boy, just take a look at my family, they are all boys!”. And he was right. My friend had two brothers, one of them had 3 children – all boys, and the other had a boy and another boy in the oven.

But my friend wasn’t entirely correct. This is because gender is not hereditary. If it were, then there’s a good chance that we would have no such thing as males and females and we would all be the same sex. This would of course lead to interesting times, but that’s a thought for another story.

Still the unlikelihood of his side of the family being comprised of all males, made my friend believe that it is of no fluke. But of course it is.

This kind of finding patterns in randomness has had a very long history. In ancient times, people used to worship the sun and the moon because it gave them light, warmth and consequently life. But on rare occasions, the moon seemed to gobble up the sun. This is what we now know of as a solar eclipse, but without the inhabitants having a good depth perception or any idea of the cosmos, to them it must have looked like the moon was indeed feasting on the sun.

Naturally, this was of great concern for our forefathers, and they used to perform a typical dance ritual so that eventually the moon would spit out the sun and all would be fine again. Thing is, it worked. Every time, the moon looked as though it was gobbling up the sun, if they performed this dance and ritual, all would be good.

No one dared to stop performing the ritual, just in case the sun was no more. This type of ritual continued for a long time across many generations, until some bright spark worked out that you can actually predict when a solar eclipse would happen. Using mathematical principles, our ancestors worked out exactly when eclipses would take place, and every time they were right.

It seemed after all, that because of the predictability of solar eclipses, it could not be that the moon was just hungry, and hence, the dancing ritual was in vain.

A mathematical model that predicts outcomes trumped people who merely found a pattern that has no logical consequence or predictable power.

In the same way, Sportpunter’s mathematical models are doing the same thing, just on a different level. Sportpunter are attempting to mathematically model the outcomes of sporting events. We may not be as accurate as those who predicted when the solar eclipses would occur, but we are more accurate than the bookmakers, whose odds are dictated by the punters perception.

Punters may find patterns that are valid, and may find patterns that are invalid. At Sportpuner we have the advantage, because we can mathematically test the validity and predicting power of sports data.

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