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How to Predict the Future without Marty McFly’s Sports Almanac

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Feb 6, 2013 by

There is still not much sign of a time machine being invented yet, is there? In fact, some people will tell you that if one had been invented at any point in history we would already know about it, which kind of makes sense.

Anyway, we are talking about time machines because investigators are looking at a way of finding out what will happen in the future. They won’t be relying on the sports almanac which Marty McFly brought back from the future, though.

Instead, the answers could, perhaps surprisingly, lie in old newspapers. The idea is that a new type of software will analyse old editions of the New York Times and website like Wikipedia.

A High Rate of Accuracy

almanacThe information is then used to predict the future and the likelihood of outbreaks of diseases and such like. Unlike McFly’s almanac this way of seeing what will happen next has an accuracy of less than 100%, although the reported 70% – 90% accuracy is still pretty impressive.

The work has been carried out by Microsoft Research and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

A research paper has been released and the boffins reveal in it that they use a combination of real time reports and old news stories to find links been droughts, storms and cholera in different parts of the world.

A good example comes with the details of how a cholera epidemic in 1974 followed a drought in Bangladesh in 1973. The same thing happened in the same order a decade later and the scientists point out that a warning of the risk of cholera could have been given in the second case by using their approach.

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