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Can Wolfram Alpha Tell Which Team Will Win the Super Bowl? 126

Nerval's Lobster writes "Which football team will win the Super Bowl this weekend? That's a multi-million-dollar question, given the amount of cash people will bet on either the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos to win. Fortunately, Wolfram Alpha (the self-billed "computational knowledge engine") can analyze the historical statistics for both teams and throw out some potentially useful numbers. Developed by Stephen Wolfram and based his Wolfram Research's Mathematica analytical platform, Wolfram Alpha is an altogether different search engine from Bing or Google, which generally return pages of blue hyperlinks in response to queries. Instead of multiple results leading to still other Webpages, Wolfram Alpha usually returns set of definitive, numerical answers. (A lengthy rundown of the engine's capabilities is found on its 'About' page.) So how does Wolfram's engine, which features sophisticated algorithms chewing through trillions of pieces of data, break down the potentials for Sunday's game? Out of the 38 times the two teams have met on the field, the Broncos have triumphed 25 times (versus 12 wins for the Seahawks), scoring 98 total touchdowns to the Seahawks' 84. It's definitely advantage Broncos, in that sense. But the teams' percentages are fairly close with regard to total yardage, penalties, penalty yards, and other metrics, although the Seahawks have managed to nab more interceptions (47, versus the Broncos' 37). But while Wolfram Alpha can crunch all the historical data it wants, and that data can suggest one team will likely triumph over another, there's always the likelihood that something random—a freak injury, or a tweak to the player lineup—can change the course of the game in ways that nobody can anticipate. Also, given how player and coaching rosters vary from year to year, the teams taking the field can change radically between meetings." EA has correctly predicted eight of the last ten Super Bowl winners using the latest Madden game.
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Can Wolfram Alpha Tell Which Team Will Win the Super Bowl?

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  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @12:36PM (#46134389) Homepage

    Of course not. This is just as stupid as asking if you could calculate somebody's phone number.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 03, 2014 @04:54AM (#46138889)

    Yes, but bookmakers don't set their odds based on an analysis of the event. They set their odds based on the bets they receive. That's *why* they are guaranteed their cut regardless of who wins.

    I work as a risk manager in a major company in the industry, and might have some insight here.. Lots of faulty assumptions in the comments in this thread, a lot of them upvoted for no apparent reason.
    The bookmakers start out with odds which are very much based on analyses of previous events. If you do not set odds based on an analysis of an event, you stand to lose a lot of money early on.
        These odds will then get adjusted, but not as most of you think.
    They will not really get adjusted to keep an even book. Bookmakers are after all more interested in making money than to contain losses. Rather than adjust odds according to the volume that gets in on each side of a bet, we have punters graded after their skill. So if a skillful punter bets 10k on seattle it is worth more to us than if a punter who is continually losing bets 10k on denver. So we are more interested in weighing the bets that come in on reliability in terms of results, than to keep risks even.
    And apart from that we will also balance our odds not just based on our own risk on an event, but on other bookmakers, as is reflected in their odds (we trust them to profit from profits, same as we do..(we will ALSO let our odds be influenced more by other bookmakers that have a good trackrecord, than on bookmakers that do not.. so bookmakers who are able to take big bets, and at the same time are able to keep narrow margins, are more interesting to follow than bookmakers who take small bets and keep large margins, etc..)

    But long story short, no bookmaker is guaranteed to get their cut no matter who wins. Bookmakers are in it for the long haul, and want to maximise their earnings.
    If we lose money on one particular event is trivial.

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