Beyond NUMB3RS - Santa Cruz's Minority Report style "pre-crime" computer

Efforts to systematically anticipate when and where crimes will occur are being tried out in several cities. The Chicago Police Department, for example, created a predictive analytics unit last year.

But Santa Cruz’s method is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.

We're so good at medical studies that most of them are wrong

This isn't a failure of medical research; it's a failure of statistics, and one that is becoming more common in fields ranging from genomics to astronomy. The problem is that our statistical tools for evaluating the probability of error haven't kept pace with our own successes, in the form of our ability to obtain massive data sets and perform multiple tests on them. Even given a low tolerance for error, the sheer number of tests performed ensures that some of them will produce erroneous results at random.

Don't leap to health conclusions each time a new study gets published.