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2018-06-18T17:10:22.353Z
0
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There is an uncharacteristic air of hope this year surrounding an uncharacteristic England team. To be an England supporter is to inherit a contradictory combination of utter nihilism and raging anger, expecting nothing and everything at the same time. English players have developed an unfortunate reputation: They will wilt under the brightest lights, typified by the inability to hold their nerve during penalty shootouts.

But the perception of mental weakness between generations is, to some extent, a consequence of the spread-out nature of international tournaments. The World Cup is rare and unpredictable: Germany, the defending champion, had just a 13 percent chance of winning in Russia going into the tournament, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, and even Brazil, the favorite, had less than a 20 percent chance.

Using pre-tournament Elo ratings going back to 1930, we can construct a logistic regression to look at how many World Cup trophies each country might have expected based on team strength, the competition format and whether the country was hosting.1

Brazil, Germany and Italy have roughly a pair of trophies each more than the model’s predictions based on their strength before the tournament, which illustrates that the World Cup is hardly a tale of who the favorite is going in.

England has underachieved, winning a solitary trophy relative to 1.62 expected World Cups. By our measure, only Hungary,...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


0-40

The Shanghai Dragons, a team competing in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League (Overwatch being a popular first-person shooter game), finished 0-40 — “one of the shittiest seasons in the history of professional sports.” Eat your heart out, 2008 Detroit Lions. [Kotaku]


11:32 a.m.

It was at that moment yesterday morning that an earthquake was detected in Mexico City. It was caused not by geological faults but by the foot of one man. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano scored in the World Cup for Mexico against world No. 1 Germany, setting off seismically measurable celebrations complete with “mass jumping” in Mexico’s capital city. The game ended 1-0. [Goal.com]


29 years

Brooks Koepka, a pro golfer from Florida, won his second consecutive U.S. Open yesterday with a one-over-par total at Shinnecock Hills in New York. No golfer has won two Opens — the most democratic golf tournament in the world — in a row since Curtis Strange did the deed in 1988 and ’89. [muted clapping] [ESPN]


53.9 percent of the vote

Iván Duque was elected president of Colombia with nearly 54 percent of the vote. Duque, a conservative who opposes a peace deal with the leftist rebels known as FARC, defeated Bogotá’s former mayor, Gustavo Petro, who supported the peace process. A deal signed in 2016 formally ended 52 years of civil war that killed over 200,000 people. [The Guardian]


1,000 Walmarts

There are...

Are Americans growing tired of the Russia investigation? On Wednesday, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 36 percent of registered voters have a negative view of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed last year to probe whether members of President Trump’s 2016 campaign worked with the Russian government in an effort to influence the election. It’s a significant increase from last summer, when only 23 percent of voters had a negative view of Mueller.

The poll got a lot of attention.

At first blush, Morning Consult’s survey appears to show that President Trump’s narrative about the Russia investigation — that it is a “witch hunt” run by politically motivated law-enforcement agents bent on undermining Trump’s victory — is taking hold, giving the president and his allies more ammunition to argue that Mueller should wrap it up.

But shifting public opinion about Mueller doesn’t necessarily indicate that people’s minds are changing about the investigation. A look at Mueller’s favorability ratings over the past year shows that more and more people have an opinion about the special counsel. And as he’s transitioned from being a relatively obscure bureaucrat to a fixture in the news, the number of people who dislike Mueller has certainly grown (particularly among Republicans), but most polls show that his support is expanding as well. This suggests that the Russia investigation isn’t losing traction among Americans overall — it’s just becoming more polarizing. And that was likely inevitable.

Mueller...

In the 12 years since he became the youngest Argentine to score a World Cup goal, Lionel Messi has won more Ballon d’Or trophies, awarded to the world’s best player, than anyone before him.1 He has scored more official goals in a calendar year than anyone in living memory. He is the top scorer of all time in Spain’s La Liga, and this season, his performances have been characteristically devastating:

Lionel Messi’s performance in the 2017-18 La Liga season

Statistic Per 90 min. League Rank* Goals 1.02 1 Assists 0.36 6 Expected goals 0.60 3 Expected assists 0.43 1 Successful dribbles 5.55 1

* Among attackers with minimum 850 minutes played

Source: Football Whispers

And yet, in part because of the juvenile nature of soccer analysis, we have barely scratched the surface of understanding quite how Messi does it. This is most true when looking at his movement. Messi may get the ball more than most, but he, like all players, still spends the majority of his time without it — making runs, hiding in space, creating space for his teammates. It’s an integral part of his game that we know almost nothing about. The outcomes are there for all to...

The long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General examining the department’s conduct in the Hillary Clinton email investigation came out on Thursday, and, if nothing else, it’s exhaustive. At more than 500 pages, it carefully and meticulously unpacks how organizations and individuals acquitted themselves before and after the 2016 election. Of course, very quickly much of the nuance was stripped out; interested parties — President Trump, his supporters, former FBI Director James Comey — all found in the report plenty of ammunition to load the gun they were already holding. Cherrypicking aside, however, the report did come to some conclusions.

So let’s look at the legal, policy and political implications of the report, but try to keep the nuance while losing some of the complexity (and adding some brevity). Here are four key takeaways from those 500+ pages in about 900 words. (Note: The report is overwhelmingly about the Justice Department and FBI’s conduct in the Clinton email probe, not the investigations surrounding Trump, or his campaign’s alleged connections to Russia. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is now looking into elements of the the Trump investigation.)

1. Comey looks bad procedurally but not legally

The report is most conclusive on two issues: the conduct of Comey and former attorney general Loretta Lynch, and the Justice Department’s decision not to charge Clinton with any crime as part of its investigation into her use of a private email server. Let’s take those in reverse order.

The report does...

Welcome to The Riddler. Every week, I offer up problems related to the things we hold dear around here: math, logic and probability. There are two types: Riddler Express for those of you who want something bite-size and Riddler Classic for those of you in the slow-puzzle movement. Submit a correct answer for either,1 and you may get a shoutout in next week’s column. If you need a hint or have a favorite puzzle collecting dust in your attic, find me on Twitter.

Riddler Express

From Adam Wagner, the Riddler comes better-late-than-never to an online craze:

The live smartphone game show HQ Trivia has taken the world by storm. In the game, you face a sequence of 12 multiple-choice trivia questions, each with three choices. If you answer all 12 correctly, you win a cash prize!2 Get one question wrong, however, and you are eliminated. If you didn’t know much trivia but did know strategy, how many phones would you need to guarantee that you’d win the cash on one of them?

Cool extra credit: The real-life game has an added wrinkle: extra lives, which you can earn by referring others to the game. You can use an extra life after you get a question wrong, and...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


-0.44 strokes gained

Golf’s second major of the season, the U.S. Open, is underway in Southampton, New York. One might expect that Jordan Spieth, the 24-year-old superstar who won three majors in a soaring period from 2015 to 2017, would be an odds-on favorite. But he forgot how to putt. This year, he’s nearly a half-stroke worse than the field per round with the flat stick. [FiveThirtyEight]


0 admissions exams

The University of Chicago is making its admissions process test-optional, beginning with the class of 2023. It’s the “first top-ranked college” to do so, according to a spokesperson for the school. In other words, U.S. students applying to the university will not need to submit SAT or ACT scores. The news sent a shudder through the No.-2 pencil industry. [The Chicago Maroon]


3 votes

The man thought to be North Dakota’s oldest mayor won re-election in North Dakota’s smallest incorporated city. Turnout in Ruso was 100 percent, and Bruce Lorenz, 86, won 3 votes to zero. He’d forgotten that it was election day. “I’ll still do it,” he said. He estimates that he’s been mayor for 30 years or more. [Minot Daily News]


More than 900 new entries

The Oxford English Dictionary, that great and weighty stressor of library shelves, has added over 900 entries in its latest quarterly update. They include Bechdel test, binge-watch, broccoli rabe, microaggression and (spoiler alert) spoiler alert. [Oxford English...

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Let’s keep things simple this week: Morning Consult just released its latest edition of President Trump’s approval ratings by state. We know generally that Trump is less popular overall than at the start of his term. But there are pretty wide variations in how much his popularity has shifted by state.4

1. Trump’s net approval has declined in all 50 states since he took office

This isn’t totally surprising, as Trump’s net approval rating — the percentage of people who approve of the president minus the percentage who disapprove — has declined nationally since January 2017. But it’s still noteworthy. It often seems as if American politics is split between two immutable camps: Trump loyalists and Trump haters, and neither group ever changes its mind about anything. But the data here suggests more fluidity — and in Trump’s case, the movement is against him. Trump does have near-ironclad support (close to 90 percent approval, according to Gallup) among self-described Republicans nationally. But a Gallup poll conducted last year found that only about 40 percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as either Republicans or leaning toward the GOP. So that remaining 60 percent of the U.S. that identifies as Democrats and independents is likely where Trump has...

FiveThirtyEight  

Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 500-page report Thursday, evaluating the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton. The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast reacts to the highly critical report in an emergency episode.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or bydownloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitteror in the comments.

There have always been conflicts in American politics around identity — race, gender, sexuality, etc. To resolve tensions between states during the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the framers wrote a provision declaring that a slave counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation and taxation, at a time when the overwhelming majority of blacks in the United States were slaves. Nearly 500,000 American soldiers (on the Union and Confederate sides) died in the Civil War over the slavery of blacks, close to the combined death totals for American service members in both world wars.1

So we are nowhere near peak identity conflict in America. But nor are we at a nadir; “identity politics” are all over the place. Indeed, talking about the role of identity in our contemporary political conflicts is important for many reasons.

To start with, Americans are increasingly “sorted” (to use a political science term) between the political parties along identity lines, with nonwhites, urban whites and agnostics, atheists and people who practice non-Christian faiths (Jews, Muslims) largely in the Democratic Party; while white conservative Christians and rural whites are concentrated in the Republican Party.2 So a partisan conflict in America is often an identity conflict too.

At the same time, people...

Once upon a time, if you were an American who didn’t like nuclear energy, you had to stage sit-ins and marches and chain yourself to various inanimate objects in hopes of closing the nation’s nuclear power plants. Today … all you have to do is sit back and wait.

There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they’re responsible for producing about 20 percent of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren’t being built. And the ones still operational can’t compete with other sources of power on price. Just last week, several outlets reported on a leaked memo detailing a proposed Trump administration plan directing electric utilities to buy more from nuclear generators and coal plants in an effort to prop up the two struggling industries. The proposal is likely to butt up against political and legal opposition, even from within the electrical industry, in part because it would involve invoking Cold War-era emergency powers that constitute an unprecedented level of federal intervention in electricity markets. But without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion.

“Is [nuclear power] dying under its own weight? Yeah, probably,” said Granger Morgan, professor of...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


3 Californias

A plan to split California into three states, bankrolled by a billionaire venture capitalist named Tim Draper, is eligible for the midterm ballot in that state in November. The three new states would be called, rather lamely, California (sure, but maybe confusing?), Southern California (uh huh) and Northern California (got it). Draper had earlier suggested splitting the state into six pieces but presumably ran out of cardinal directions. Even if Californians vote for the plan — polls suggest they likely won’t — it’d still have to pass the state legislature and Congress. [Splinter]


19 percent

The men’s World Cup begins today in Russia, and Brazil is the favorite to win it all according to our prediction model. Spain and Germany round out a Big 3 at the top with 17 and 13 percent chances, respectively. That said, Brazil had a 45 percent chance last time around (when they hosted the tournament) and then this happened. On my birthday. Auf geht’s Deutschland. [FiveThirtyEight]


27-year impasse

In other hot geographical cardinal directional naming news, the Republic of Macedonia is getting a new one: the Republic of North Macedonia [italics mine]. The country itself has not physically moved. What happened was that after Yugoslavia split apart in the early 1990s, one of its pieces declared its independence as the Republic of Macedonia. Its southern neighbor Greece did not like this, however, because Greece has a region...

When the 2018 World Cup begins play today, it’ll kick off what could be a very good month for the usual suspects of international soccer. Our World Cup probability model, which launched on Wednesday (read more about it here), gives Brazil — the most successful team in World Cup history — the best chance of winning the tournament, at 19 percent. Spain (the winner two World Cups ago1) and Germany (the defending champ) aren’t very far behind. And don’t forget about the classic contenders France and Argentina, who are also in our model’s top seven.

Only eight countries have ever lifted the Cup, so it’s not surprising that we are predicting good things for the world’s perennial soccer powerhouses. (Well, most of them. Sorry you couldn’t make the appointment, Italy and the Netherlands.) But this World Cup could still have its share of surprises, too. Here are the teams our model has as the favorites:

It’s not all historic honchos that have risen to the top of our model. Group G standout Belgium, which has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the worldwide rankings over the past decade, has a 27 percent chance of making the semifinals for just the second time in team history (and the first since 1986). This could very well be the year...

Not too long ago, pundits and golfers alike were awestruck by the meteoric rise of Jordan Spieth. The charismatic Texan, who claimed three major championships before he turned 24, ostensibly was en route to perhaps the greatest professional golfing career ever recorded. A fresh-faced kid — who in 2015 confessed to never having heard of the “The Price is Right” — was conquering golf.

“Take any field — finance, marketing, other sports, whatever — and few, if any, can boast as impressive of professional achievements as Spieth can in golf,” read a July 2017 article on the official PGA website.

Spieth has regressed considerably this season, however. Sure, he made a valiant charge on the final day of the Masters in April. But he has as many missed cuts as top-10 finishes on the season and hasn’t ranked in the top 20 at any event over the past two months. With the U.S. Open scheduled to begin Thursday on Long Island in New York, it’s worth noting that at this juncture in each of the past three seasons, Spieth had claimed at least one victory on tour. This season, he has finished no higher than third at any of the 15 events in which he’s played.

That diminished success can be traced to a singular element of Spieth’s game: putting. Perhaps no player on tour has put forth a better Happy Gilmore impression this season than Spieth, who has imploded on the greens.

Consider,...

FiveThirtyEight is examining each of the eight groups in the 2018 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Russia. Read about Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, Group F and Group G.

Group H is potentially the most interesting in Russia this summer. While the average group difference in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index score between the best and worst teams is about 25, Senegal’s SPI rating of 66.0 is only 14.5 points lower than Colombia’s 80.5. Poland (73.3) and Japan (71.4) are rated very similarly in the middle of the group. On top of this, the teams are filled with exciting attacking players from Europe’s strongest leagues: Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Colombia’s James Rodríguez (Bayern Munich), Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and Senegal’s Sadio Mané (Liverpool) will all be battling to make an impression on the world’s biggest stage.

Paper tiger or legit contender?

After missing three straight World Cups, Colombia made a big impression in the 2014 World Cup — even without Radamel Falcao, who was unable to recover from injury in time to play. Four years later, Los Cafeteros’ talismanic striker is back, but he is no longer the star of the team: After finishing as the top scorer with six goals in Rio, Rodríguez has become the focal point of an exciting Colombian attack, which boasts a 69 percent chance of making it to the knockout stage.

José Pékerman’s squad likes to attack...

Over the next few days, FiveThirtyEight will be examining each of the eight groups in the 2018 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Russia. Read about Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E and Group F.

Group G is one that neutral fans would be forgiven for skipping until the final round of matches. Given the overpowering, Premier League-fueled strength of Belgium and England compared with minnows Tunisia and World Cup first-timers Panama, this group is really about who finishes first. And unless something miraculous happens, this is likely to be decided by the match between the two giants on June 28.

Paper tiger or legit contender?

Belgium has the most talented team in the group — its squad boasts the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Thibaut Courtois. Its rating of 85.4 in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index places it sixth in the world, one spot above England’s 83.7; Belgium has an 87 percent chance of making it to the round of 16, compared with England’s 85 percent.

Tactically, Roberto Martinez’s preferred system brings the best out of Hazard, who will likely flank Lukaku on the left of a front three, but shackles De Bruyne, who may be the world’s best offensive passer. During European qualifying, De Bruyne created just 0.32 “big chances” per 90 minutes, as defined by data firm Opta Sports, compared with 0.55 in the Premier League for Manchester...

The World Cup is back, and so is another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup predictions. For those of you familiar with our club soccer predictions or our 2014 World Cup forecast, much of our 2018 forecast will look familiar. We show the chance that each team will win, lose or tie every one of their matches, as well as a table that details how likely each team is to finish first or second in their group and advance to the knockout stage.

This year, we’ve added a few features to our interactive graphics. We have a bracket that illustrates how likely each team is to make each knockout-round match that it can advance to, as well as its most likely opponents in those matches. You can also explore some what-ifs by advancing teams through the tournament bracket to see how that would affect the forecast. Finally, our predictions incorporate in-game win probabilities that update in real time.

Below is a summary of how the forecast works, including a description of FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index (SPI) ratings, how we turn those ratings into a forecast and how we calculate our in-game win probabilities.

SPI ratings

At the heart of our forecast are FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings, which are our best estimate of overall team strength. In our system, every team has an offensive rating that represents the number of goals that it would be expected to score against an average team on a neutral field and a defensive rating that represents the...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.


The number 0

Bees understand nothing. That is, they understand the concept of the number zero, a concept it typically takes human children years to grasp and for which even the ancient Romans had no numeral. Using drops of sugar as incentives, much like one would with the aforementioned young children, and sheets of paper printed with different numbers of objects, bee researchers taught bees to fly to the sheets with fewer objects. Eventually, the researchers introduced a sheet with zero objects. The bees then flew to that one, too. [Vox]


3 letters

The 2018 men’s World Cup begins Thursday in Russia, but before that happens, international soccer officials will announce the location of the World Cup that will be held in 2026. The U.S., in a joint proposal with Canada and Mexico, is facing off against Morocco to host the event. President Trump himself, as part of a largely hidden campaign, has given U.S. soccer officials three letters addressed to the president of FIFA, which oversees the world game. The letters provide assurances that Trump’s hardline immigration stance on visas would not apply to a World Cup held in the States. [The New York Times]


8 ancient baobabs

Over the past 12 years, the ancient baobab trees in southern Africa have been dying. A team of researchers discovered that eight of the 13 oldest trees — all of which are between 1,000 and 2,500 years...

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): For the first time in awhile, we have the full politics chat gang!!! So … for that.

Next, today’s question: Will voters give President Trump credit for the U.S.-North Korea summit?

If so, how much? And in what form?

Let’s start with how voters might react to the summit, and then we can get into what the implications of that reaction might be.

Opening bids?

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): They might react well if it goes well; they might react poorly if it goes poorly.

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): FIN

micah: LOL.

clare.malone: Flippancy aside …

We still don’t know what we’re actually seeing out of this, right? I can’t tell how people are going to filter what they’ve seen so far through their partisan lenses. For instance: Trump called Kim, who is an oppressive autocrat, a “very talented” guy.

How do people in America in 2018 see that? Right now, I think you’re seeing people put that through the Twitter partisan wringer, but what will voters/Americans think of it?

perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): Yeah, voters tend not to be super informed about the nuances of foreign policy. So I would guess, with Democrats attacking the summit and Republicans praising it, the initial polling will bear that out and show a partisan divide around, say, “Was...

Over the next few days, FiveThirtyEight will be examining each of the eight groups in the 2018 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Russia. Read about Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D and Group E.

Germany, the defending World Cup champion, is one of the favorites to win the tournament — FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index ranks Die Mannschaft third behind only Brazil and Spain. Although their personnel may have evolved over the past few years, the Germans still maintain a style of methodical possession football that has been consistently successful on the world stage over the past 15 years. They don’t face any particularly fierce challenges in this relatively soft group; they were rather lucky to catch Mexico in a down year, a tame Swedish side and a South Korean team that is one of the weakest in the field.

Legit contender or paper tiger?

Germany’s style is similar to that of fellow contender Spain. The team deploys a host of midfielders and wingers who are comfortable in possession of the ball. It looks to strangle the game by keeping possession and using intricate passing moves to build dynamite chances for its attackers in the box. Only Spain creates more attacks from slow possessions (possessions that involve 10 or more passes before the ball is played into the attacking penalty area) than Germany’s 6.45 per game.

Germany’s lineup has shifted over the years to suit this style. Gone are the days of...