Lost in the crowd? A statistician explains how to find your friends at a music festival

While mobile phones have all but eradicated the fine art of getting lost, there are still times where they may prove useless. With the summer music festival season upon us, you may find yourself in such a situation before too long. Consider the following scenario: you’re at Glastonbury with a group of friends. You’re all enjoying a performance by Beck or PJ Harvey, but then you feel the call of nature, or a pang of hunger. You head off to the toilets, or go grab a burger and a beer, trusting that your friends will be in the same spot when you get back.

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Is 'you know who' dead? Predicting the future in Game of Thrones

The narrative cliff-hanger is a fiendish device – ramping up drama and tension only to leave important details unresolved, guaranteeing fans of the story will return for more at a later date. For readers of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, make that “a much later date”. Martin’s high-fantasy novels, on which the Game of Thrones TV series is based, are lauded for their detailed world, large cast of compelling characters and intricate plotting. But all of these elements take time to write, and Martin’s books appear only at wide intervals.

Statistically speaking... How long can Pope Francis expect to live?

When elected pope of the Roman Catholic Church on 13 March 2013, the Argentinian priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, took the papal name of Francis and instantly became one of the most famous people in the world. In August 2014, Pope Francis jokingly announced that he expected to live another two or three years, and that he might even retire within this period.

The Great British Bayes-off: How much difference (statistically) does a soggy bottom make?

Macaroons, Swedish Princess Cake, and… hemp-flavoured bread? These days a simple Victoria sponge won’t cut it. Home baking is enjoying a comeback, and it’s largely thanks to The Great British Bake-off (GBBO), which has proved so popular since its launch in 2010 that it has expanded from six to 10 episodes a series (with the sixth series broadcast this summer), while inspiring copycat versions of the show in a variety of countries, including the USA, Australia, Ireland and France.

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The joy of clustering

In April 2014, FiveThirtyEight published a statistical analysis of the paintings of Bob Ross. Journalist Walt Hickey hand-coded hundreds of pieces of art in order to identify common themes. If that sounds like too much hard work, statistics PhD student Samantha Tyner describes an alternative machine-led approach that could make future art analysis a little bit easier. 

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