Sunday, January 13, 2013

Believe It or Not

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager


Fred Fearing, the original Rose Buddy - Scrapbook
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Main St - Business Section - Early 1900's
Taken from
In a publication about Elizabeth City printed in the early 1900’s, it was predicted that the thriving coastal city would become one of the largest, most progressive towns in North Carolina by the year 1915.

Based on the number of successful businesses, rate of construction, number of boats licensed to do business on the river, the number of farming, fishing, and lumber businesses, the future success of the town was a sure thing.

Events happen, things change, and predictions fail.

The dawning of the new year always prompts people to make predictions about many areas of life such as business, the economy, the stock market, sports, politics, natural disasters, pandemics, scientific discovery, weather, and many others.

Author Sean Covey shares the “Top 10 Stupid Quotes of All Time” which includes the following predictions:
  • “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”-C.H. Duell, US Commaner of Patients in 1899.
  • “The earth is the center of the Universe.”-Ptolemy, Egyptian Astronomer in the second century.
  • “Man will never reach the moon, regardless of all the future scientific advances.”- Dr. Lee DeForest, inventor and Father of Radio, 1967.
  • “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at the plywood box every night.” -Darryl Zanuck, Head of 20th Century Fox in 1946.

People have always had a compulsion to know the future. For centuries, Greeks consulted the Oracle at Delphi, an old woman who lived in a cave and was believed to have the power to see into the future. Ben Franklin created his Poor Richard’s Almanac which put forth predictions about weather and other bits of useful wisdom.

Other famous predictors from many areas of thought include Nostradamus, Leonardo Da Vinci, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Alvin Toffler. Most non-scientific seers of the future use their powers of observation, past experiences, and individual knowledge to project what the future holds.

Making predictions is part of all scientific experimentation. Even young students working on their science fair projects must predict, form a hypothesis, collect data, test their ideas, and come to a conclusion.

American statistician and author Nate Silver has garnered much attention for his work in several fields of prediction. As a sabermetrician, an analyzer who uses baseball statistics to make predictions, he gained world recognition for his amazing accuracy. In the area of politics, his ability as a psephologist was demonstrated when he correctly predicted the outcomes in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

Using polls, finance information, and voting data, Silver was correct in 49 of 50 states in his pre-election analysis. His book, The Signal and the Noise-Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don’t, was named Amazon’s number one non-fiction book for 2012. Silver’s methods have changed the science of prediction.

Some predictions might be called prophecy, but others are the result of careful scientific and mathematical study and calculation.

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