Steve and I have been exploring the online reference site, The Book of Odds. Some of the site’s key functionalities are still in Beta, but for over three years they’ve been compiling odds to create a large database of “the odds of everyday life.” You can sign up for free and provide a little profiling information to begin exploring statements of probability related to your profile, or to anything you want to look up.
The idea is to explore the odds of something happening, and then to calibrate the probability in a comparison. If the topic you explore is included in the database (the four main current topic portals are Health & Illness, Accidents & Death, Relationships & Society, and Daily Life & Activities), you’ll get confirmed probability data on that topic, but you’ll also get leads on unexpected connections, as you compare unrelated events by their likelihood of occurring.
The site also has social and learning functions, and content aside from the odds database (newsletters, blogs, related links, etc.) We’re just getting started exploring this resource, and brainstorming about how we can apply it to our day-to-day reference needs. It’s actually pretty challenging to think about life in terms of probability statements – thinking up queries to get started. But once you dig into the site, there’s quite a bit to learn – not only the small bites of data, but how to calibrate probability, and new approaches to classifying and comparing phenomena.