0831: "Weather Radar"

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0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby black_hat_guy » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:43 am UTC

Image
Alt-Text: "Ever notice how there aren't as many thunderstorms now as there were when you were a kid? Much like 'The shuffle on my MP3 player has a bias', this is occasionally true but universally believed. Brains are so interesting!"
http://www.xkcd.com/831
That was a bit late. I hope it was just a script error or something.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Uninfinity » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:47 am UTC

Darn you and your expediency. >_>

But yeah, why do we have a cellar if we're never gonna get hit by any tornadoes? X|

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Me321 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:51 am UTC

I live in Oklahoma, I hate it when this happens, The storms alway go arround me. (is it sad that I am sad that storms avoid me?)

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby cprocjr » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:51 am UTC

Hahaha, great comic!! Whenever I hope for a storm it seems to just miss me at the last second!

Now talking about things that have biases; I'm pretty sure the xkcd "random" button is biased. I won't ever see some strips, but others strips will come up like every 20-30 clicks. But that could just be my brain being "interesting." (Yes, I click the random button a LOT)
Last edited by cprocjr on Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:53 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby black_hat_guy » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:52 am UTC

Me321 wrote:I live in Oklahoma, I hate it when this happens, The storms alway go arround me. (is it sad that I am sad that storms avoid me?)

I doubt this happens to you very often, seeing as these aren't real storms.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby glasnt » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:53 am UTC

This happens to my boyfriend, who loves the weather radar and all things windy/rainy/stormy.

He tells me I need to bring an umbrella/coat/warm things, and I end up not needing them.

Then again, our local weather guys are pretty inaccurate lately, even the radars tend to be incorrect <_<

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby shashwat986 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:53 am UTC

Meh.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Eternal Density » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:54 am UTC

This doesn't make any sense. What would be the point of falsifying the radar image for overzealous refreshers? The storm would still hit them just the same. Trying to 'tease' people like this doesn't achieve anything apart from giving them the impression that the radar is horribly inaccurate.

And I don't believe there's been any less or more thunderstorms than when I was a kid. *shrug*.
Anyhow, there was some fairly heavy though brief rain here not long ago.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:56 am UTC

cprocjr wrote:Now talking about things that have biases; I'm pretty sure the xkcd "random" button is biased. I won't ever see some strips, but others strips will come up like every 20-30 clicks. But that could just be my brain being "interesting." (Yes, I click the random button a LOT)

We've already investigated that, actually
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:00 am UTC

As for the mp3 player shuffle bias, I remember reading something about Apple changing the iPod's shuffle from true random to a pseudorandom distribution that guarantees you will not hear the same song twice in a short time interval. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, that makes sense. Usually when you shuffle, you don't want to hear the same song twice.

Also, I did once have an mp3 player (I think it was the Dell DJ, but I'm not sure) that did have a shuffle "bias." Except it wasn't just a bias, it was ridiculous. If I started with a given song (there was no "shuffle songs" button), it would always play the exact same tracks in the exact same order, without fail, every time. So I had to choose a different song from the one I did last time to ensure I got a different playlist. I don't know if this was a bug or if the first song really was the seed for its RNG.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby popman » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:04 am UTC

glasnt wrote:This happens to my boyfriend, who loves the weather radar and all things windy/rainy/stormy.

He tells me I need to bring an umbrella/coat/warm things, and I end up not needing them.

Then again, our local weather guys are pretty inaccurate lately, even the radars tend to be incorrect <_<

I know weather satellites are much more accurate,at least here in Europe where we have "meteosat"
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Otto » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:05 am UTC

cprocjr wrote:Now talking about things that have biases; I'm pretty sure the xkcd "random" button is biased. I won't ever see some strips, but others strips will come up like every 20-30 clicks. But that could just be my brain being "interesting." (Yes, I click the random button a LOT)


"Random" is not a concept human beings are capable of grasping properly. If you ask most people to pick a random number from 1 to 10, and then to do it again, then they'll never give you the same number twice. Meaning that the second number they give wasn't truly "random", was it?

Similarly, if you give people an MP3 player and put it on random play, then if it plays the same song twice before it plays all the songs (or sometimes if it even plays the same *artist* anywhere close to another song by that artist), then they get the idea that it's biased or non-random. However, if it actually played all songs with equal frequency over as short a term as the person is thinking of, then that wouldn't be random in the slightest. Random numbers only tends to give equal frequencies over long, long, long periods.

So unless you've hit that random button on the order of a few hundred thousand times and created a frequency chart, you really don't have enough data. All you're seeing is short term instances and remembering instances of correlations, while forgetting those that did not correlate. Call it what you want: Gambler's Fallacy, Clustering Illusion, Selection Bias, Von Restorff effect, sometimes even Confirmation bias. Regardless of the name, the fact is that people suck at recognizing true randomness, and cannot produce true randomness at all.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby joplju » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:13 am UTC

Oh, Randall.... Your comic further proves my theory that you're a closet weather nerd!

Coming from a meteorology major, we see this *all the time* on radar. Yes, I'm going to nerd out and say that we can't actually fake the data that is put out, but there are some cities (specifically, the ones that I have lived in) that seem to have a bubble around them. I've literally watched storms in real time die exactly at the county line before, only to re-form on the other side of the county as the system propagates across.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby dawidi » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:15 am UTC

ahh... ok, so it's my fault that this town never gets hit by storms... for the last two years or so I've been running a script that fetches the quarter-hourly weather radar images, and keeps an archive of them. And indeed I've seen that phenomenon of an approaching "phalanx" of precipitation splitting up just before arriving here, a lot.

Come to think of it - I probably should write a script that adds them all up to see if there is indeed a low-precipitation zone here... :mrgreen:
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby cprocjr » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:21 am UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:
cprocjr wrote:Now talking about things that have biases; I'm pretty sure the xkcd "random" button is biased. I won't ever see some strips, but others strips will come up like every 20-30 clicks. But that could just be my brain being "interesting." (Yes, I click the random button a LOT)

We've already investigated that, actually


Interesting! I was actually wondering if someone had done the analysis, but my super quick forum search didn't turn up anything. Thanks for the link!

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby squareroot » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:24 am UTC

Otto wrote:"Random" is not a concept human beings are capable of grasping properly. If you ask most people to pick a random number from 1 to 10, and then to do it again, then they'll never give you the same number twice. Meaning that the second number they give wasn't truly "random", was it?


Ask them to give you to random numbers between 1 and 10 (with a different phrasing, if you want.) Then there is (read: should be) a one in ten chance they're the same. If not, ask for a third. If they're still different, ask for a fourth. At this point, there should be about a one in two chance that two are the same. And yet, countless people will believe it should be 4/10.

Ask for just one more number; you get a 69% chance (lol it's 69. :-P) that two were the same. So, if no two were, then chances are they really suck at making random numbers. :D
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby pgn674 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:38 am UTC

Holy crap, this exact thing has happened to me so many times. Something forms out of nowhere, comes right for me, then splits at the last second. I swear, the towns north and south of me (04021) get better thunderstorms than I do.

It must be like "a watched pot never boils." A watched radar never lets you get the best storms.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby I Know Your Name » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:51 am UTC

I HATE THE MP3 PLAYER BIAS. I WANT IT TO DIE. ESPECIALLY W/ A SONG 3 TIMES IN A ROW.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby caje » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:55 am UTC

Eternal Density wrote:This doesn't make any sense. What would be the point of falsifying the radar image for overzealous refreshers? The storm would still hit them just the same. Trying to 'tease' people like this doesn't achieve anything apart from giving them the impression that the radar is horribly inaccurate.


No, you falsify that a storm might be coming then you change its direction at the last second so you give them false hope.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby gmrple » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:01 am UTC

As a lifeguard I can confirm this phenomenon.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby minim » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:16 am UTC

Everything about this comic is perfect. Afiguratively.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Sunidesus » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:18 am UTC

joplju wrote:Oh, Randall.... Your comic further proves my theory that you're a closet weather nerd!

Coming from a meteorology major, we see this *all the time* on radar. Yes, I'm going to nerd out and say that we can't actually fake the data that is put out, but there are some cities (specifically, the ones that I have lived in) that seem to have a bubble around them. I've literally watched storms in real time die exactly at the county line before, only to re-form on the other side of the county as the system propagates across.


Is there any kind of theory for why? I grew up in a city that had a "bubble" like that. It was always incredibly frustrating to watch the radar and think we were going to get an awesome storm. Then the storm would split in half, go around us, and regroup on the other side.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby pcantrell » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:27 am UTC

I'm the developer who wrote the bulk of the code that parses and composites the NEXRAD data into a national map for My-Cast Weather. (I also wrote a good chunk of the iPhone UI, which in my biased opinion kicks ass and you should totally download it.)

Implementing the radar compositing was a big challenge. I had to:

  • Find out Randall's home address.
  • Sneak into his room late at night, drug him, and surgically implant a tracking device.
  • Apply a gaussian damping function to my compositing algorithm's output, centered at Randall's current location.
  • Reverse the polarity of the time rotor's dilithium flux capacitors so that instead of modeling reality, my compositing algorithm defined it.
Result: a constant "rain hole" centered on Randall. Toughest task I ever had.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby WizenedEE » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:30 am UTC

Eternal Density wrote:This doesn't make any sense. What would be the point of falsifying the radar image for overzealous refreshers? The storm would still hit them just the same. Trying to 'tease' people like this doesn't achieve anything apart from giving them the impression that the radar is horribly inaccurate.


In this comic, the first panel is the actual truth - no storms in sight. The next two makes them excited, and the last two make it believable (because there isn't a storm where they are)

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Zemyla » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:49 am UTC

Isn't there a heat island that keeps storms away from cities? Or does that not affect things?

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby DeathDread » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:59 am UTC

Alt text IS true for me. I was born in Florida, but currently reside in California.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Softfoot » Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:09 am UTC

It's absolutely possible for storms to split and go around areas. Every so often we could watch them roll in, but then circle around us. I wasn't paying enough attention at the time to be sure, but I think it had to do with what level the storms were at and how fast they were travelling, and the geographical conditions - mountain to valley, arid country to heavier forestation, land meets sea.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Framling » Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:11 am UTC

I grew up in a town in South Dakota that was home to one of the Doppler radar towers the weather service used. Because of the limitations of the technology, the output always showed a perfect circle of clear weather around my town.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Vrishna » Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:45 am UTC

Oops! Did anyone except me try to reload today's comic 128 times? :lol:
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Mazuku » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:01 am UTC

Clearly you are living in the wrong region then, over here in South Oz, we had record thunderstorms last night, the most we had here since 1913, it was thundatopia here.
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby evenstar » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:35 am UTC

Is this Randall's way of defending the much beleaguered weather man? "I was not wrong in my prediction, it was a joke on you!"

Shuffle bias --> true of youtube playlists

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Brooklynxman » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:47 am UTC

I actually tracked mine over a few weeks (I wiped how many times the songs were played when I transferred computers somehow) and I had songs played 13 times while a full third were played 0. And about a quarter of the songs were 5+ plays. Mine was biased as all hell
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Ideas sleep furiously. » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:59 am UTC

There WERE more storms when i was a kid.
More hail too.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Jive Turkey » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:06 am UTC

I read a study on the randomness of iTunes' "shuffle". The results were a huge bias towards tracks purchased from the iTunes store and away from tracks from other sources (ripped from CD etc). There also was a bias towards tracks that were currently in the iTunes' top charts. Makes sense from a marketing point of view.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby perakojot » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:01 am UTC

Otto wrote:Similarly, if you give people an MP3 player and put it on random play, then if it plays the same song twice before it plays all the songs (or sometimes if it even plays the same *artist* anywhere close to another song by that artist), then they get the idea that it's biased or non-random. However, if it actually played all songs with equal frequency over as short a term as the person is thinking of, then that wouldn't be random in the slightest. Random numbers only tends to give equal frequencies over long, long, long periods.


that would be true if said option was actually labeled "random". but it is labeled "shuffle". think about that..

taking all cards in a deck and "shuffling" them actually guaranties that you will not see the same card (when dealing) until you deal all of them. similarly, when you tell your phone to shuffle all the songs, it should not play the first song again for a couple of days (depending on the number of songs N).

your next question will probably be "but then you end up repeating all the songs in the same order forever, right?". well, then you bust out the randomness. you can divide all your songs in two groups (randomly), shuffle the first group and play it, then shuffle the second group and play it, then shuffle the 1st group again, etc.. that way, you make sure no song is repeated for at least N/2 plays.

you can even let the user adjust that parameter (half) to control the ratio of randomness/shuffle-ness.. ;)

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Cira » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:32 am UTC

Sometimes I could swear my mp3 player is capable of learning.
If I skip over a song it comes up less often in "random" play, and if I deliberately select a song it plays far more often.

This is even weirder when said mp3 player is a piece of junk I got a couple of years back of $40.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby PatrickRsGhost » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:00 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Also, I did once have an mp3 player (I think it was the Dell DJ, but I'm not sure) that did have a shuffle "bias." Except it wasn't just a bias, it was ridiculous. If I started with a given song (there was no "shuffle songs" button), it would always play the exact same tracks in the exact same order, without fail, every time. So I had to choose a different song from the one I did last time to ensure I got a different playlist. I don't know if this was a bug or if the first song really was the seed for its RNG.


I have a Dell DJ and it has done this. I've always believed it to be very bias. A lot of times I've had it shuffle tracks, and in more cases than I'd care to have, it has played three or four songs by the same artist in a row. True, I have about 80-some songs by that one artist (actually a band), but that shouldn't make any difference. I have 900-some songs by many other bands and artists, so I shouldn't be hearing four songs in a row by the one band.

Also for the longest time, if I had it play all tracks (nothing that would have seemed out of place, at least to me, like Christmas music), it always started with whatever it had listed as track 1. I think it sorts the music library by the track number assigned to the music file. In this case, the track number was "0", since it was two songs I had spliced together using an audio editing program, and didn't set the track number as "1". I had set the artist, album title, and song title, but not the track number, so it saw it as track 0, and put it at the beginning. After that song played, it would shuffle at random, so I would see at the bottom of the display "1 of 995" for that first track, then the next one might be "435 of 995".
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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:38 pm UTC

Patrick, that still doesn't seem to match what happened to me which was literally the exact same list every time, with no variation whatsoever, given I started with the same song. Very strange.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby project2051 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:40 pm UTC

Sunidesus wrote:
joplju wrote:Oh, Randall.... Your comic further proves my theory that you're a closet weather nerd!

Coming from a meteorology major, we see this *all the time* on radar. Yes, I'm going to nerd out and say that we can't actually fake the data that is put out, but there are some cities (specifically, the ones that I have lived in) that seem to have a bubble around them. I've literally watched storms in real time die exactly at the county line before, only to re-form on the other side of the county as the system propagates across.


Is there any kind of theory for why? I grew up in a city that had a "bubble" like that. It was always incredibly frustrating to watch the radar and think we were going to get an awesome storm. Then the storm would split in half, go around us, and regroup on the other side.



It did that where I live all this summer with rain. We hardly received any rain while areas around us got much more, and the radar maps looked just like that. Probably because it's located on a high spot in the middle of the state between two large lakes.

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Re: 0831: "Weather Radar"

Postby thyristor » Wed Dec 08, 2010 1:56 pm UTC

I really see less thunderstorms now than when I was a kid.
Now it's only one or two each year, at most.
I even remember some years ago during a college class, we heard a thunder and the teacher says "We're not used to that anymore".
I miss those storms... used to spend whole afternoons looking at lightnings. And it puzzles even more because I live 10 minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean and rarely see a thunder storm these days.

The bottom line is, thanks Randall. Feeling a bit less crazy now regarding the weather.


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