But won't admit it - Some people have a special gift for predicting chaotic systems like the weather and financial markets, according to Australian psychologist Richard Heath. Chaotic sequences of numbers are very hard to predict because of the ?butterfly effect,? which means that even a small change too small to be measured can have a dramatic impact on the outcome.
Heath identified people who can predict these outcomes by showing volunteers a list of eight numbers and asking them to predict the next four. The volunteers were told that the numbers were the maximum temperatures for the previous eight days, but they were actually computer-generated digits that made up a chaotic sequence.
He found that a quarter of the people he tested could predict the temperature for at least the next two days, even though there was no obvious pattern to the figures.
?The $64,000 question is what is going on in their heads,? says Heath. He is now planning tests to find out whether the skill is related to specific personality types, or to aspects of intelligence such as mathematical ability.
Heath was able to rule out the possibility that people making successful predictions by looking only at the last few numbers. In other words, they were not able to cheat by assuming that ?the weather tomorrow is likely to be the same as the weather today,? he says.
If the results stand up, testing for sensitivity to chaos might help financial institutions identify people who would do well as financial traders. ?Some guys can?t communicate what they are doing, but they make millions,? says Jeff Pressing, an artificial intelligence expert at the University of Melbourne. ?They have some sort of intuition. My guess is that they are sensitive to subtle non-linear structures like chaos.?
None of the scientists involved seem to have considered that some of the people they tested might be psychic.
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