Kit Chellel for Bloomberg tells the riveting gambling story of Bill Benter, who used statistics to model horse-racing in Japan. My favorite part is the pre-Internet process Benter took to collect data and predict results:
Benter’s model required his undivided attention. It monitored only about 20 inputs—just a fraction of the infinite factors that influence a horse’s performance, from wind speed to what it ate for breakfast. In pursuit of mathematical perfection, he became convinced that horses raced differently according to temperature, and when he learned that British meteorologists kept an archive of Hong Kong weather data in southwest England, he traveled there by plane and rail. A bemused archivist led him to a dusty library basement, where Benter copied years of figures into his notebook. When he got back to Hong Kong, he entered the data into his computers—and found it had no effect whatsoever on race outcomes. Such was the scientific process.
As I said with the lottery–hacking stories: I need to gamble more. This is statistics’ true purpose, right?