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2011 is fresh and new, and with each new year comes hopes, expectations, resolutionsand, of course, predictions. Just about everyone from economists to political pundits offer prognostications, but the most entertaining (albeit least accurate) are those made by psychics.
For example, one psychic from Toronto who goes by Nikki offered the Toronto Sun a handful of predictions, including guesses that first lady Michelle Obama will have another baby; the Playboy mansion will burn down; and that a Washington politician will be exposed in a huge cheating scandal. She also said that 2011 will bring "a sense of togetherness."
Now, I'm no psychic, but having researched and studied psychic predictions for many years, I've picked up a few of their tricks and so in December 2009, I tried my hand at predicting the future. See for yourself; here are some of the events I correctly predicted for 2010.
1) A well-known comedian or comic actor will commit suicide .
Correct. Comedian Greg Giraldo, a judge on the reality show "Last Comic Standing," died on September 29 of a self-inflicted drug overdose. (It's still not clear if the death was an accidental or intentional suicide, but in either event Giraldo died by his own hand.)
2) A famine will break out in or near Eritrea, causing a call for global food aid.
Correct. In 2010 eight million people nearly starved in Niger, a country near Eritrea not known for famine.
3) The U.S. housing market will begin to recover by March, and the stock market will significantly improve by the end of 2010.
Correct. The U.S. housing market experienced a significant (1.1 percent) rebound in March, and 2010 ended with stocks near a two-year high.
4) A senior government official will come under fire for sexist or racist comments, but will remain in office.
Correct: In January, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid came under fire for racially insensitive remarks he made about President Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. Reid apologized and remained in office.
5) A former world leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient will die.
Correct. Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University scientist who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, died on July 18; he was a world leader in climate change research, and advised every presidential administration from Nixon to Obama.
6) A famous athlete or performer will be forced to publicly admit that he fathered a child out of wedlock .
Correct. Married Brazilian athlete Ronaldo, one of the best-known soccer players in the world, admitted to being the father of a five-year-old boy born in Japan, following a DNA test.
I made a few other predictions and, overall, my success rate topped 90 percent (14 out of 15 right), a feat that even many famous psychics can't claim. Predicting the future is an uncertain business under the best of circumstances, but there are a few techniques that can improve your chances of success. First, play the odds; if you're going to pick a celebrity that might not see the full year, you obviously have a better chance with an elderly actor than an athlete in his prime. Second, use weasel words like "might" and "should," instead of "will." Third, pay attention to the news so you can logically extrapolate current trends into the future .
Another technique that psychics use to boost their numbers but is a little like cheating is making vague predictions or predictions that cannot be proven (for example, how would anyone quantify or prove a sense of togetherness?).
Of course, broad predictions are more likely to come true than ones that are very specificthough several of those I made for 2010 were fairly specific and could have easily been wrong. Unlike Nikki, I predict that Michelle Obama will not have another baby in 2011. But I'll bet on a good, old-fashioned Washington sex scandal any day.
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Benjamin Radford is managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries." His Web site is www.RadfordBooks.com.