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‘Book of Odds’ gives eye-opening stats

Bob Moon Oct 14, 2009

‘Book of Odds’ gives eye-opening stats

Bob Moon Oct 14, 2009


Bob Moon: Sometimes, statistical probabilities can sound very improbable. Did you know, for example, that one in every 300,759 fatal accidental falls starts from some kind of playground equipment? But you’re 85 times more likely to fall to your death from a chair! We found those odd insights on a new Web site that launched today. It’s called “Book of Odds.” And we’re joined now by it’s founder, Amram Shapiro — thank you.

AMRAM SHAPIRO: Well, you’re very welcome.

Moon: So why the subject of odds? Why did you want to pursue this particular idea?

SHAPIRO: Well, about three years ago I realized that you could look up words in the dictionary, connotations of words in a thesarus and of course, you could find almost anything on the Web. But if you really wanted to understand a probability and what it meant to you in particular, there was really nowhere to go. And it occurred to me that that would be an awfully useful thing to create.

Moon: So how have you set this up? For people who go to check out the Web site, how does it work?

SHAPIRO: Well, suppose, for example, you visit your accountant and he tells you are facing certain odds of an audit, or you visit a doctor and the doctor says you face certain odds of a bad side effect and you have a number. Let’s suppose that number is one of 144, that doesn’t really mean a whole lot to you. But if you go to the site, and go search on that particular odd, you can find other things that might mean a great deal to you. So if you’re a baseball fan, and you learn that the odds the next batter will hit a triple are one in 144 then the game will inform your understanding of that number. And maybe tell you whether to worry or not to worry.

Moon: You can do some pretty interesting mashups here. I was checking it out earlier and I found that the odds that an employed person 16 or older is a reporter or a correspondent are 1 in 2667. And then I matched that up and found out that the odds of running into a reporter are about the same as running into a manucurist or a pedicurist.

SHAPIRO: Well, you’ve gotten into the spirit of the thing, which is that you may find that two things you had never associated will meet each other through the numbers themselves.

Moon: So where does this research come from?

SHAPIRO: We were able to attract a great group of researchers who have been working with us in stealth mode for the last three years, and of course our commitment since this is a reference work is to keep it updated on a regular basis.

Moon: So I couldn’t figure how to get the answer to this one when I typed it in. What are the odds of success for a Web site like this? How do you hope to keep the site up and running? What is the business model?

SHAPIRO: Our business model is very simple. We’re going to rely on three things. One is advertsing. Second, we have such good researchers, and such a wonderful and interesting new form of data that we’re able to work with business partners and provide services. And then the third thing is that we’re actually going to be selling products. Every single one of our hundreds of thousands of odd statements can be turned into a t-shirt or some other schwag that you can have and play with. So we’re making use of the extreme personalization that the Web makes possible.

Moon: Amram Shapiro is founder of the “Book of Odds” Web site. Thank you for joining us.

SHAPIRO: You’re very welcome, Bob.

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