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Predicting Game of Thrones

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, 6 October 2014: University of Canterbury (UC) academic Dr Richard Vale (Mathematics and Statistics) has designed a statistical model to predict the future outcome of Game of Thrones.

Dr Vale will present his theories during next week’s free public What if Wednesdays lecture at UC on Wednesday 8 October, 7pm-8.15pm, C3 Lecture Theatre, Central Lecture Block, University of Canterbury.

Dr Vale will discuss general aspects of statistics including prediction, probability and forecasting as well as present a unique model he created to find out who would live and die in the final two books of the Song of Ice and Fire series written by George R R Martin.

He will address questions such as whether we can predict something as unpredictable as Game of Thrones; how can we say how uncertain we are about our prediction? And how uncertain are we about our uncertainty?

“One of the most fascinating things about the books is that they are very unpredictable, with long-running and popular characters being unexpectedly killed off and widespread speculation about future plot developments. This makes them an interesting subject for statistical prediction,” he says.

“This talk will cover some general aspects of prediction, probability and forecasting and describe a model which can be used to predict the future of Game of Thrones. We also discuss the shortcomings of the model and explain why some things probably cannot be predicted in a meaningful way, and why this should not stop us from trying to predict them.”

Dr Vale used Bayesian statistics to create a hierarchical model with data based on the number of point of view chapters assigned to each character in the previous books. The model predicts the number of chapters characters will likely get in the future books.

“From the model you get simulations of the next book so you can see how many point of view chapters each character should have. I did this mostly because, as a fan, I was interested in what characters would have zero predicted chapters, or not, using that as a proxy to discover whether or not they would still be alive,” he said.

“I know that Game of Thrones is not really random and it depends entirely on the whim of George R R Martin, but that’s okay. Although this is just a bit of fun, I am using probability to quantify what I don’t know.

“Statistics is meant to be able to answer questions like this. It’s meant to tell us things we don’t know, to put a probability or a price on something.”

Dr Vale added that people should be aware that it may be hard to avoid major spoilers for the five existing books during the lecture.

More information about this lecture is available at http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/wiw/.