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Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe does a show at the end of every year in which they make predictions for the following year. They do this to demonstrate that anyone can be a psychic, and amazingly, two of the crew have 'accurately' predicted the death of two famous people. Both Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse were picked to die, and lo, they died.

Psychics generally rely on two factors when making predictions:

1. Make a crapload of predictions. People forget the misses, and celebrate the hits.

2. Make educated guesses. Pick old people, sick people, unhinged people and your odds (arguably) improve considerably.

The first point is simple. If you make enough predictions then time and chance will prove you though - particularly if you're vague to begin with. Sure, we might consider Charlie Sheen is high chance for death but predicting that a 'famous out-of-work TV actor will die' sets the bar pretty low and almost guarantees a hit during whatever period one specifies.

The second point seems intuitive, but I'm not sure it is. Charlie Sheen may die, but is he any more likely to die than anyone else in a big enough sample? There's a lot of things going on here... he likes to party hard, but then again, he's rich and can afford rehab and high-end medical care. He's reckless, but then again, there's a lot of people with a vested interest in Sheen such that they might want to keep him alive for as long as possible.

So I'm opening this up. I'm going to make a list of 5 celebrities (from a list of 200) of people I predict are likely to die by the Mayan End of the World (end of 2012)*

My pool of celebrities is drawn from the Time 2011 Top 100 most influential... and the Forbes Top 100 most powerful Celebrities... there's a little bit of overlap (i.e. Oprah's listed twice) so the pool is just short of 200.

What I want is for people to have a look at the pool of 200 and make their own list of 5 predictions. All of these can go happily in the comments, however once I feel enough time has passed (say, a week) I'll compile a list of the 10 most commonly picked to die.

Now the kicker. Once this has been done I'll randomly pick a list of 10 celebrities from the pool as a control group.

Do you think that the individual will be the best at predicting the death of celebrities, that consensus will the best, or that randomness will trump all? Naturally, this will be to a level of statistical significance. I'll figure out these levels and publish how this is done at the appropriate time.

I'm honestly not sure which method will be the best, but I wouldn't be too surprised if the random number generator beats us all to the punch.

In the meantime, here's my list of...


The Top 5 most likely to die before the Apocalypse

1. David Letterman

2. Julian Assange

3. Sarah Jessica-Parker

4. Robert Downey, Jr.

5. Oprah


*Why then? Well, we'll all be dead afterwards, right?


Image source:


For interest's sake, I'll use to remind me in 18 months time that these predictions can be checked.

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"Psychics generally rely on two factors when making predictions:

1. Make a crapload of predictions. People forget the misses, and celebrate the hits.

2. Make educated guesses. Pick old people, sick people, unhinged people and your odds (arguably) improve considerably."

Don't forget.

3.  vulnerable people.

4. and they read body language in response to their crap load of predictions.

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Elton John

Paul McCartney

Dick Wolf

Chen Yen

Charles Koch


Ah. Links to click on and lists to read.

Divide the potential amount of people that will participate by 10 for each click.

Clickthrough rates for ads, to be very successfull, are around 2%.

Voluntary participation most probably is around the same.

Put the list somewhere easier to find. You will get more people to participate.


And I am ashamed that I know more people in the Forbes list than in the Times's one.


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I thought links on blogs were a plus. I always enjoy them. I know ads are a black-hole of commitment, but I thought more personal posts were different. Evidently not...


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