The Econophysics Blog

This blog is dedicated to exploring the application of quantiative tools from mathematics, physics, and other natural sciences to issues in finance, economics, and the social sciences. The focus of this blog will be on tools, methodology, and logic. This blog will also occasionally delve into philosophical issues surrounding quantitative finance and quantitative social science.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

New Scientist: Mamma mia! Eurovision voting scandal uncovered

I just read a story off of the New Scientist (a UK science periodical) magazine's website that discusses a computer simulation that indicates cheating in the voting for the Eurovision Song Contest. Americans may not be familiar with Eurovision ... basically think of it as a really cheesy version of American Idol. (E.g., among Eurovision's former winners was 70s quasi-disco/elevator pop music group ABBA ... apologies to any ABBA fans out there). You can read the story either in the print edition or at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025474.900-mamma-mia-eurovision-voting-scandal-uncovered.html .

I'm posting this entry since it reminded me of what I wrote about in my blog post on 'forensic economics': March Madness?: Basketball, Bookies, Point Shaving, and Forensic Economics

Just in case you can't buy New Scientist at a newsstand near you or the URL goes dead, I am excerpting the article below:


Mamma mia! Eurovision voting scandal uncovered
13 April 2006
From New Scientist Print Edition

ABBA, the Swedish pop phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980s, found fame by winning the cheesy Eurovision Song Contest. Now, shockingly, it seems that the voting on this cherished European institution is subject to collusion that can skew the results.

Eurovision is an annual contest in which European countries elect a national song and award scores to others in the final. Some people suspect conspiracy in the voting. Greece and Cyprus, for example, always seem to favour each other. So Derek Gatherer, a computer programmer from Glasgow, UK, decided to investigate. He ran computer simulations to find the possible range of results if countries voted without bias between 1975 and 2005, and compared that to the real results.

Sure enough, conspiracy was afoot. In the early years, collusive partnerships between countries came and went. Since the mid-1990s when public telephone voting was introduced, however, a large "Balkan bloc" centred on Croatia has emerged to battle with a mighty "Viking empire" of Scandinavian and Baltic states. The copycat voting is now powerful enough to determine the contest's outcome (Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol 9 (2), p 1).

Gatherer says he thinks the collusion has become part of the fun and says he doesn't plan to warn the contest organisers: "I think they probably already know."

His tip to win the contest in May? Bosnia-Herzegovina.

From issue 2547 of New Scientist magazine, 13 April 2006, page 23

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