Are the Oscars Predictable? A Harvard Math Student Says Yes

By  · Published on February 23rd, 2012

No matter how ambivalent this year’s Oscars might make everyone, trying to guess the winners is almost always intriguing. It’s usually broken down by factors such as prior victories in other awards shows, likeability of the nominee,what’s being talked about the most, what made more money…you know, characteristics that actually speak nothing about the film itself or how good it is. Yet, regardless, it’s still fun.

Though, just because I can’t quantify the value of specific factors to pick a winner doesn’t necessarily mean that a quantifiable formula does not exist in terms of systematically predicting who will win; and if there was going to be someone to develop such a formula then it was most likely going to come from a student at Harvard because (as one of last year’s nominees taught us) people love math there. They love it.

Indeed though, Harvard student Ben Zauzmer has developed a formula for calculating who will walk away with a statuette this Sunday and posted those math-based Oscar predictions on his blog.

After peeking through his list of winners I can honestly say I agree, roughly, with about half of the results of his Super Oscar Math computer and the other half is just deliberate defiance because I’m afraid of computers that can calculate future outcomes of events better than a human. I’ve seen the movies that deal with that issue and none of them end well.

However, it is a very interesting concept to think that the Oscars and the winners can be predicted and I’m really curious to see retroactively who his formula would have predicted to win in past years. If Zauzmer turns out to be correct he may be the Jonah Hill to some Oscar better’s Brad Pitt come Awards season 2013. Though, if he’s wrong, he may end up like Moneyball and walk away with no gold statues, according to his results.

And speaking of Oscar predictions, if you can out-guess Cole, you can win a prize. It’ll probably be something from Mondo because that’s what we default to most of the time. Ben Zauzmer can even prove that mathematically.

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