Awesoness Defined [Vid]

A 5-minute compilation of all that is awesome on the web right now: Cats, dogs, sharks, jets, explosions, stunts, extreme sports, and so much more!


Lindsey Stirling’s Beautiful Assassin’s Creed III Violin Medley

I’m kind of dissapointed that Lindsay didn’t start jumping around parkour-style while playing the violin in the video. That would have been awesome. ;-)


Man Spends 40 Hours Re-Creating Bag End with Balloons [Video]

Jeremy Telford, aka “The Balloon Guys,” spent 40 hours and used 2,600 balloons to transform what looked like a perfectly normal living room into a hobbit paradise. Here’s a five-minute long time lapse of the process:

[The Balloon Guy]

The “Everything” Costume [Pic]

Can you list all the characters featured in this costume?


Election Results: Mathematics WINS!

For the third election cycle in a row, Nate Silver is winning praise as the guru of election forecasting. There’s a lot of confusion about what he does and doesn’t do, so here’s a quick guide to why his record is a big win for mathematics rather than gut instinct.

Who is Nate Silver?

Silver is a former economic consultant who developed a system for analyzing baseball player performance and forecasting the likelihood of their future success. He later adapted his techniques to political forecasting and won attention in 2008 when his forecast likelihoods came off in reality for 49 of the 50 states in the presidential election and all 35 Senate races. He later began writing for the New York Times and made predictions for the 2010 mid-terms, coming close but not quite as accurate as in 2008.

How did he do this time round?

In all 49 states (plus DC) where a Presidential race winner already looks clear, the candidate Silver ranked more likely to win did so (pictured). He had Obama a slightly favorite in Florida, which at the time of writing was not yet a clear result though Obama was ahead on votes that had been counted. Silver rated Obama a 90.9 percent favorite to win the Electoral College in his final analysis on election day. He also forecast a 50.8 to 48.3 percent popular vote lead for Obama; at the time of writing, the Associated Press count has Obama leading 50.4 percent to 48.0 percent.

So Silver correctly predicted every state and the overall race?

Not as such. Silver’s analysis is not intended as a prediction, but rather an assessment of the likelihood of winning. By definition there’s no way to confirm that assessment was correct as the real voting only takes place once: you’d have to run the race numerous times to even begin checking a likelihood forecast was correct. In the same way that a Romney victory wouldn’t have proven Silver wrong, an Obama victory doesn’t prove him right. What we can say is that taking all the individual states into account, his analysis certainly comes across more credible in hindsight than many rivals.

So how does he do it?

Silva’s talked about the details of his technique, but the explanation here is a slight simplification to show the general principles. It’s a two-stage process: first assessing the likelihoods in each state, than translating that into a nationwide prediction.

The main data gathering and analysis is simply gathering together all available opinion poll results, the logic being that polling is generally accurate but with statistical margins of error that should be reduced heavily by combining multiple polls. However, Silver doesn’t simply average the polls but rather weights them based on a combination of their sample size, how recently they were conducted, how they addressed the stated likelihood of respondents to actually vote, and the past performance of the polling company (a comparison of their previous polls and the actual results of the race concerned.) The idea is to minimize the effects of systemic bias in which the way a particular poll is conducted consistently affects the results in the same direction.

Does Silver do anything else with the numbers?

With all the numbers Silver crunches he applies non-polling data, though the way he does so can be misunderstood. The non-polling data involved factors such as the state of the economy, the benefit of incumbency, the number of registered party supporters in particular states and so on. Silver only applies this data where analysis shows a 90 percent certainty that it correlated to previous elections and, importantly, only uses such data to plug the gaps where recent polling data is insufficient. The non-polling data doesn’t ever replace polling data.

How does this translate into a national race?

While there’s some account taken of national polling and non-polling data, Silver primarily works through simulations using a system similar to the Monte Carlo method used in techniques such as weather forecasting. This involves running simulations of the state voting based on the forecast likelihood in each state.

To give a hypothetical (and extremely simplified) example, you could start with Oregon having a 90 percent chance of going for Obama, pick a random number from 0 to 100, and chalk the state up as an Obama win if the number is from 0 to 90. Repeat this process with each state and you get a national result and a resulting electoral college winner.

What you then do is run the process many many times over and track how many times particular outcomes and Electoral College totals come out. The idea is to get an idea of how likely it is to get different combinations of states going for or against the candidate predicted as more likely to win. This also helps measure the impact of the fact that, for instance, being wrong in Ohio is more likely to make the overall result different than being wrong in New Hampshire.

How did Silver’s forecasting differ to that of pollsters and pundits?

During the entire campaign, Silver always had Obama down as more likely to win overall. At his lowest point (just after the first TV debate) Obama was still rated a 61.8 percent likely winner, a likelihood that improved rapidly in the run up to Election Day when it became less likely voters would change their minds between responding to a poll and casting a ballot. Many pundits described the race as a toss-up or neck-and-neck right up to election day, refusing to label one side as more likely to win.

So why were the pundits getting such a different outcome?

There are three main reasons, the first two of them behavioral. Pundits may have been cherrypicking polls that met their preferred results and thus getting too excited about reading supposed momentum that may simply have been down to the natural statistical variation in polling. Secondly, some media outlets may have deliberately put an emphasis on anything that suggested an unpredictable race, whether to make a simple narrative that portrayed events as significant in affecting the outcome, or simply to make for a more interesting story than telling people the result wasn’t in doubt and risking them switching off.

The main issue however seems to be people misunderstanding what the numbers Silver produced are meant to portray. A forecast that, for example, Obama has a 75 percent chance of winning does not mean you are saying that he’ll win 75 percent of the vote or even that the final vote count in a state or national race won’t be close.

The forecast is a measure of certainty of the result, not a measure of the likely margin. In other words, Silver was saying that although the result might be close, it was highly likely Obama would win — something that’s partly the result of the Electoral College state breakdown working in his favor.

In fact by the time of his forecasts in the past few days, Silver argued that an Obama win was virtually certain based on the mass of polling — the chance he gave Romney was effectively nothing more than an assessment of the possibility that the polls as a whole were systemically biased.

Ah, but Silver got the electoral college total wrong didn’t he?

Not as such. Silver did give a figure of 313 for Obama’s electoral college total but again this wasn’t a prediction, rather an average of all the simulated outcomes. This doesn’t translate to a forecast as 313 may not even be a possible total, and several previous daily assessments that had fractions clearly weren’t.

Simply as an average, the figure has come out well of course: it lies between the two possible totals (303 and 332) that are left with Florida yet to be confirmed. Whatever the result, it’s within the margin created by the closest state.

What’s more impressive though is that Silver also produced a chart of how many times each individual total appeared in his simulations. Top place, coming up as a 20 percent probability, was 332. Second place, with 16 percent, looks to be right on 303.

I Have Finally Made A Time Machine…Or Not [Comic]

I had a lengthy Facebook discussion with some of my friends from physics regarding this. The conclusion was that this comic assumes that there are absolute spatial coordinates which are sun-centric. However, in reality, the (more or less) inertial frame of the Earth is no less absolute than the sun-centric system, so there is no reason to assume that you wouldn’t reappear in the frame you left (i.e. the Earth’s), rather than moving to a new one (which is the sun-centric frame).

Basically, the comic assumes absolute space, which is incorrect according to¬†Galilean relativity and Einstein’s relativity. Boom.

[Via I f* love science]

I’m a (Gamer) Geek: The Music Video [Loacs & Johntah]

Ok, before you hit play on the clip, just be aware that the music in this video was composed by some of our French (from France) readers, so don’t be too hard on them about the lyrics, which may sound strange on occasion, even though they’re in English. However, the music itself is catchy, and the video was well produced.

Warning: Video contains language that might be slightly inappropriate for a work environment.

Un beau bonjour à tous nos lecteurs francophones! :) (Greetings to all our French speaking readers, and to all the rest of you as well, of course!)

[Loacs & Johntah]

Young William Adama Dogfights Cylons Fighters in New BSG: Blood and Chrome Preview Clip

Don’t forget folks, BSG: Blood and Chrome starts airing tomorrow on Machinima Prime!


Amazon Deal of the Day: 30% Off Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set (Season 1-6)

For today’s edition of Deal of the Day, Amazon has a very cool Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set, which includes seasons 1-6 (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith), for $174.86, 30% off the box set’s regular retail price of $249.95. The set also includes a collectible 11th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver, 3 original art cards and the comic book, Doctor Who at Comic Con. Please note that this title will be released on November 20, in less than 2 weeks, and if you order it, Amazon will ship it to you the day it comes out.

BBC brings you the Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set just in time for the holiday season! This limited edition Doctor Who collector’s box will be the ultimate holiday gift for Doctor Who fans! It includes the complete seasons 1-6 covering the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith), over 70 hours in all, plus hours and hours of bonus features including 3 new Doctor Specials coming to DVD for the first time ever.

Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set (2012) – $249.95 $174.86 (30% Off)

Behold the Glory That is the Banthapug [Pic + Video]

If after seeing the Wampug you thought to yourself, “that’s it, I’ve now seen everything,” well, you were wrong my friend, because the Banthapug is here to prove you wrong!

Early leaked footage from Star Wars Episode 7? Nawwww, once again I’ve created a new Star Wars costume for my pug Chubbs. Last year she was the Hoth Wampug. This year she headed to Tatooine and became the BANTHAPUG!

[Via Neatorama]

Are You Lightest in the Morning? [Video]

Many people know (or at least, think they know) that we are lighter in the morning than at night. But HOW? Are we magically converting matter into weightless energy? Does it all evaporate away as water?

Veritasium found this puzzling and decided to look it up and set the science straight on this. He’s a bit long-winded, but he eventually gets there. Any biologists out there care to agree/disagree with his science?

[Via Veritasium on YouTube]