The Anglosphere faces a futebol challenge in Brazil

Monday, 9 December, 2013 0 Comments

Most reasonable people would agree that our world would be a far more barbaric place without the game that Ebenezer Morley helped codify 150 years ago and the lingua franca that enables people from Ghana to Ireland to share their enjoyment of it. When it comes to sport and communication, the Anglosphere is the gift that keeps on giving, but past and present generosity won’t count for much on 12 June next year when the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo. From then on, it’s nation against nation and the devil take the hindmost.

In the case of the Anglosphere, its representatives — Australia, England and the United States — were dealt a particularly cruel hand by the FIFA draw last Friday. The Socceroos of Australia have to face Spain, the Netherlands and Chile, while the Three Lions of England are pitted against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, and the United States must play Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

Superstar statistician Nate Silver, recently of the New York Times and now employed at ESPN, is already on the job and he’s come up with a matrix that plots each team’s probability of advancing beyond the group stage. It doesn’t look good for Australia, but Nate gives England and the USA a fighting chance, which is a jolly decent thing to do.


Note: When Britain’s rule in Aden ended on 30 November 1967, the Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey, shared a nostalgic drink with Sir Charles Hepburn Johnston, the last Governor of the colony. As the two looked out across the Arabian Sea, with the sun setting for the final time on the British Empire east of Suez, Healey asked Johnston how he thought the British Empire would be remembered. Johnston replied that it would be remembered for only two things: “the game of soccer and the expression ‘fuck off'”.

Deep Thunder from IBM in Rio

Wednesday, 10 April, 2013 0 Comments

Rio de Janeiro, the iconic Brazilian city, is famed for its natural beauty but the price is a plague of flash floods and landslides down the steep mountains that frame Copacabana Beach. Two years ago this month, a severe storm caused 212 deaths and left 15,000 people homeless.

IBM Enter IBM. It’s providing Rio with computing power for an urban operations centre to help meteorologists, police and more than 30 city departments to predict the danger of, and respond rapidly to emergencies. The high-end weather system, called Deep Thunder, combines tracking of incoming storms with a “deep computing” capacity that’s able to predict the likely intensity of an oncoming storm.

The data can then be correlated with sensor systems on hillsides that determine soil stability and landslide danger. Alerts should make it possible to warn residents in advance of storms, to close down streets, mobilize ambulances and turn off electric power to prevent electrocutions. The system is connected to the mayor’s home so that even in the middle of the night he can be in the emergency communications and command centre when danger looms.

IBM: “With the World Cup coming to Rio in 2014, the forecast for the business-of-weather approach pioneered by Deep Thunder looks bright.”