Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lunatic?

Ken Ring told Leighton Smith this morning he predicted the Christchurch cold snap eighteen months ago in his long-term weather almanac. I haven't got the quote (you should find his interview with Leighton here, about 10:30am) but to me it sounded about as vague a prediction as one given by Nostradamus.

Ken Ring doesn't predict weather by the usual meteorological methods, he relies instead on the gravitational effect of the moon and the cycles he says it produces. Here's his explanation of why this works, and here's his Free Forecast page if you want to test him.

Now, if he wasn't already a member of the Skeptics Society (or is that former member), on the face of it I'd be referring him there immediately for investigation. It sounds like nonsense, but by all accounts (Ring's own, to be fair) he has has about an 85% success rate, with all the appropriate disclaimers, to be sure.

Does anyone have any Ring successs stories to report? Or is he just a nut?

Bill Keir, from both the Auckland Astronomical Society and the Skeptics Society, is in no doubt:

Obviously Ken Ring has a significant loyal following, and his weather forecasts are correct often enough to convince impressionable people. But why do the news media love this man so much?

I suggest several reasons. Ken Ring probably pesters them so much they can’t resist, and he is charming, affable and a master of bluff... Most media people have a poor understanding of the sciences.... The electronic media especially have an aversion to anything that taxes the brain for more than a few seconds. This is obvious from the way factual corrections are handled – they are either not published at all or hidden away where they will be missed. I wait in vain for a front-page headline reading, “Moon did not cause floods – yesterday’s headline wrong.”

...The fringe theorists won’t go away. We are dealing here with a growing trend. These people are exploiting modern information and publishing technology, and freedom-of-speech principles, to spread fabrication posing as fact. They go largely unchallenged. The Ken Rings of this world are purveyors of falsehood with the gullible collusion of the news media. The whole process increases public ignorance – the exact opposite of what the information explosion is thought to be doing.

But will Ken Ring and his followers listen to serious refutations? I fear not. Expert refutation will probably only reinforce their conviction that the establishment is suppressing their brilliant ideas. And that’s just the sort of juicy story angle some people fall for.

That's just how it seems to me. Read Keir's detailed analysis of Ring's output beginning here, and Ring's response is here. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Sus said...

Ken Ring stories? Yep, me. Before travelling, I always consult his site; have done for a no. of years. He's been spot on every time, even when I've requested a Sydney prediction weeks in advance of travel.

Best story? A Nov 02 prediction for a March 03 birthday party that suggested the party could be held outside in spite of rain the day before and after. It stayed fine all day - even though it rained heavily the day before and the day after.

9/20/2005 01:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Sam Vilain said...

Perhaps you would like to see the archive message from September 5th where this was predicted? Scroll down to the entry for 17th-18th September.

17th-18th: More rain coming, with some heavy falls of rain and snow in both islands. ...

9/20/2005 05:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

"I'd love to hear your thoughts"

I don't think so - since I went to the trouble of emailing you mine because I can't post on blogger on my laptop, and you never posted it.

Guess that means everyone's thoughts but mine. Very benevolent.

Talk is cheap.

9/20/2005 08:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Knew I'd forgotten something yesterday .. KR chats with Blackie on Solid Gold FM every Wed morning .. on two occasions last Dec & March respectively I heard Ken predict 'an unusually fine, mild winter except for two weeks of bad weather in June (while the Lions were touring) and 10-14 days of the same in July'. It's worth noting that NIWA was predicting a long, cold, wet winter at the same time.

9/21/2005 08:57:00 am  
Anonymous Ruth (by proxy) said...

You may know that astrology and geometry are used to predict the stock market too. The theories of WD Gann are old and have always had a cult following, but astro-trading is gaining in popularity these days. Very few traders will admit to using it though. It's not something I would use myself, but if it works, all power to them.

http://www.acrotec.com/gann/gann.html

Austrians believe ALL forms of technical analysis are rubbish, anyway. It is completely false that one cannot chart human action. Shakespeare said something like "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than in all our imaginings" It's true, too.

Regards,
Ruth

9/21/2005 09:32:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"I don't think so - since I went to the trouble of emailing you mine because I can't post on blogger on my laptop, and you never posted it. Guess that means everyone's thoughts but mine. Very benevolent."

Has anyone ever explained to you the virtue of patience, Ruth?

9/21/2005 09:33:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

If one takes just one or two accurate or near-accurate predictions to say that Ring is always accurate and his methodology therefore correct, you would be guilty of the inductive fallacy called the Fallacy of Hasty Generalisation--or more colourfully the fallacy of the lonely fact--or perhaps even a special case of this error called the fallacy of misleading vividness.

You can't just take his accurate or 'accurate to three days' forecasts, and discard or overlook the inaccurate.

Bill Keir points out a number of inaccurate forecasts in the link I gave, and also points out, "[Ken Ring] also insists that we allow a 3-4 day latitude when interpreting his predictions. This nicely covers all the possibilities, given New Zealand’s well-known average three-day high-low cycle, but negates his claim to be a reliable consultant for choosing a day to make hay or have a wedding...

"It is hard to escape the impression that Ring achieves his claimed 80 per cent forecasting success (about the same success rate as official forecasters) by a combination of luck and educated guesses based on known weather patterns. Nothing in his writings constitutes evidence that Moon positions are a useful weather forecasting tool, or that they are related to weather at all. Much of his writing is little more than fanciful pseudo-science."

http://www.astronomy.org.nz/aas/Journal/Nov2004/PseudoWeather.asp

9/21/2005 10:29:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve been buying Ken’s books for a couple of years now and will continue too whilst they are providing accurate information.

I’ve never like the science Ken claims is driving the predictions. To me if these effects were correct I would suspect that the gravitational influence of the Sun would have a much larger impact than that of the moon.

However I still buy his book. The daily predictions I don’t rate that highly. However the monthly trends, rainfall and averages have been quite accurate over the last couple of years and this has kept me buying the book.

9/21/2005 12:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

'allow a 3-4 day latitude when interpreting his predictions'?

Not in my experience. His info has always noted 'a 24 hour margin of error'.

Old habits die hard. When you come from a farming background, you always keep one eye on the weather - and speaking personally, his forecasting has been accurate.

But don't take my word. Check it out yourself!

9/21/2005 02:47:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Ruth said, "Austrians believe ALL forms of technical analysis are rubbish, anyway. It is completely false that one cannot chart human action."

You can chart many things, including the phases of the moon charted against weather events. But what Austrians and others say is not that charts and maths is "rubbish," but that "math is silent on causality"--without a causal explanation, what you have is not complete knowledge, just a record of past events.

A chart on its own (or even a series of charts) is not an explanation, nor is it complete knowledge, and nor is it necessarily a safe predictor of future events: particularly when that chart is intended to predict the behaviour of human beings as if they were inanimate physical objects.

9/22/2005 08:02:00 am  

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