Today's Financial Times "Weekly Review of the Fund Management Industry" has an interesting front page article that really struck me. The article describes how a firm which specializes in longevity research for pension funds recently discovered a spike in death rates when more than half of the moon is visible in the night sky.
My immediate reaction, and one that I think is relevant for any of us in the field of research and predictive modeling, is "Who even thought of data on the moon phases as an input variable to this research??" Some think predictive modeling is an automatic magical black box exercise. But it really is just math and depends on the capacity to throw the net wide, so to speak, across a range of seemingly completely unrelated data to see if patterns emerge.
Now, does knowing that there is a higher death rate at certain points in the lunar cycle help with predicting longevity? The article suggests not, but it does help with predicting payout patterns, which is of concern to pensions as well.
Now, let's see what kinds of things might cause students to drop out? Donors to increase giving? Students to default on Financial Aid payments? Maybe that crazy full moon has something to do with it! And now I have the King Harvest "Dancing in the Moonlight" song stuck in my head!