I really enjoy recreational reading, so I was pretty stoked when I found out this class had a book to read that was more for fun and less of a text book. I’ve picked up Silver’s book at Barnes and Noble many times before, but could never bring myself to buy it. It was always cataloged in the “math” section, so by definition could not be a light summer read (this is also why I still haven’t read Freakonomics…thank God Moneyball made its way into the “sports” section). In fact, Moneyball was one of the final tipping points that pushed me back into the world of higher education. It was while reading about how “statheads” were revolutionizing the way baseball teams were constructed that I realized I wanted to be as smart as those guys in SOMETHING, ANYTHING. But, to do that I knew it would involve more school, so here I am.
Back to Silver, I felt extremely naive when he hit on the fact that local weather forecasters fudge the forecast on purpose for ratings; why would I blindly assume they were just innocently incorrect? Of course, my dad had been telling me about this forecast fudging for years, but have we really stooped that low as a society? I guess so. I now feel more compelled to do a little background research on where exactly I’m getting my weather. However, without doing any research, other than through my own meandering experience, I advise anyone who has been burned by a marine forecast to add magicseaweed.com to their repertoire when making decisions on potential field days. I know what you must be thinking when you read the name of the website (wait until you see the psychedelic colors they use on their charts). And, in the interest of full disclosure I learned about magicseaweed from a bunch of surfers, at a beach bonfire, on the outer cape, but trust me, it’s worth it!
As much as we complain about the inaccuracies of weather prediction, it is comforting to know, when considering forecasts from the NWS, weather prediction has improved in the last 10-20 years; and we can put most of our thanks for that in increased computational power. However, as a grad student who will someday be trying to build a career, our increased reliance on computers always makes me a little nervous. Will computers do everything I can do, but better, cheaper, and around the clock, therefore rendering me useless? Both Silver’s chapter about baseball and weather predicting talked me off that bridge a little bit. Stats are very important in both areas, but he also goes on to remind us that people are still an important part of building a successful baseball team and predicting the weather. People are valuable assets when it comes to making the final adjustments on a weather model for a specific area or finding the distinction between someone who might be a phenomenal ball player on paper but too much of a head case in the locker room to make him worth the money…if only the Patriots had realized this with Aaron Hernandez (since they CLAIM they did not).