Last Week's Atmosphere Item: I said that in the NFC title contest, Pete Carroll twice passed on long field goal tries because the day was cold and humid, calling that a worst-case scenario for kick distance. Reader Brian Goller of Cincinnati notes, "Cold is indeed bad for kickers but it's a common misconception that humid air is more dense than dry air. Actually wet air is less dense than dry air at the same temperature. Water molecules contain two atoms of hydrogen, the lightest element; they have a lower atomic weight than nitrogen or oxygen, the main constituents of air. Kicking a football, expect the most favorable conditions to occur at a high altitude on a warm day with plenty of humidity."
Bad Predictions on Fast-Forward: TMQ's all-bad-predictions column has been retired, but a few howlers are always welcome.
"I am behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent." USC athletic director Pat Haden, three weeks before firing him. Perhaps Haden meant he was standing behind Kiffin and planned to push him down the stairs.
"Leslie Frazier is not going anywhere. I am telling you we are very committed to Leslie Frazier." Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, one month before firing him.
The new book "The Firm," by Duff McDonald, about consulting giant McKinsey & Company, reports that in 1980, McKinsey did a mobile-phone market study for AT&T, billing several million dollars for seemingly sophisticated research that concluded that by 2000, fewer than a million Americans would own mobile phones. The correct number for that year would be 109 million.
New York University economist Nouriel Roubini became a media darling, and a player on the big-bucks lecture circuit after his 2006 prediction that a housing bubble would cause recession proved correct. Does that make him a seer? Roubini had predicted national economic misfortune many times before and been wrong -- and he has continued to predict it since, again being wrong. If you endlessly predict the clock will strike midnight, you will be right once a day.
In 2010, Roubini said big banks would nosedive further as they lost another $1 trillion on mortgages; instead, big banks have recovered spectacularly. In 2011, he told NPR there was "more than a two-thirds likelihood of another recession, and if it happens, it will be severe, with 12 to 13 percent unemployment." Growth since 2011 has been close to the historic norm, with unemployment now 6.7 percent. In 2012, Roubini predicted the entire global economy would collapse in 2013. Instead, the United Nations says global economic growth was 2.1 percent in 2013. Want to pay for Roubini's highfalutin galimatias? He will sell you some.
One wonders -- how could Roubini possibly be doing his job as a professor if he's also running a "global macroeconomic and market strategy research firm" for corporate clients, plus flying around the world giving paid speeches? This is setting aside how he could possibly have time for the academic work he is supposedly basing his predictions on.
Left-wing smooth talkers aren't the only ones making daffy economic predictions. Arthur Laffer, Ronald Reagan's favorite economist, in 2010 predicted that in 2011 "the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare, a double-dip recession." The economy grew 1.7 percent in 2011.