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Is Racism Statistically Predictable?

I've mentioned statistician Nate Silver before (How Nate Silver Predicted Obama's Win; Nate Silver's Oscar Predictions, Reviewed). He's best known for his statistical work on the 2008 US Presidential election, in which he analyzed various publicly available poll results, handicapped them using baseball-style analysis, and did a surprisingly good job of predicting how specific areas of the US would vote. After the election, Silver gave a TED Talk in which he talked about racism as a factor in the election -- he wanted to know whether racism as a factor affecting voting was statistically predictable -- meaning whether some other factor (like geography) could predict whether a given white voter would not vote for a black candidate. Silver's talk is now up on the TED site, and it's worth a look.

Discussed: the 2008 US Presidential election, the "blueing" of America, what's the matter with Arkansas, "rednecks with guns," asking people if race was an important factor influencing their votes, is racism statistically predictable, the General Social Survey, white people with black neighbors, interracial marriage, street grids versus cul-de-sacs, intercollegiate exchange from New York to the South, predictable problems being designable (solvable).

I don't want to ruin the surprise, but Silver's short answer is: yes, racism is predictable (statistically speaking). It's not about urban versus rural, though -- watch the talk to see what factor predicts racism affecting votes.

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Animals
Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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