Questions for “Beyond crystal balls: How to make good forecasts”

an illustration of a old wizard looking into a crystal ball

Forget about crystal balls and tarot cards. Mathematics and a mountain of data offer a much more reliable way to predict the future.

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To accompany feature “Beyond crystal balls: How to make good forecasts


Before Reading:

1.  If you want to predict future events (such as if the weather will be good for a cookout on July 4 or you are likely to do well on a math test), what information would you use?

2.  How do weather forecasters make long-range weather predictions?

During Reading:

1.  What is statistics and how is it used?

2.  How are models (run on computers or by other means) used? Basically, how do they work?

3.  According to Tom Di Liberto, what are weather and climate models “all about?”

4.  What are equations? What role do they in weather models?

5.  What does the equation F=ma stand for? According to Di Liberto, what aspect of weather and climate models makes it easy to come up with the appropriate equations needed?

6.  How might Emily Kubicek come up with a way to predict who will like something such as coconut kumquat ice cream?

7.  How is a computer model like an Easy Bake Oven? How is it different?

8.  When statistician Michael Lopez says “Our job is to be precise,” what is he referring to? (You can use the example of a running back.)

9.  Why do computer modelers sometimes use “stand-ins”? Give one example where these are being used today.

10. According to Di Liberto, what is hind-casting? Give one example of it mentioned in the story.

After Reading:

1.  Give one example of something in your life where computer modeling could give you useful predictions. What data set would you use to ensure a model’s forecast would be as reliable as possible?

2.  Use the information provided in the story to explain why a computer model can never give you a definitive answer to some question. Now come up with a specific area or field of study and explain what features in that particular field will make it impossible for modeling to give you a definitive answer.