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Alaskan Gamblers Aid Scientists

30 October 2001

ALASKA –– As reported by the New York Times: "…Since good science needs good data, scientists will take it wherever they can find it. It can be found in some odd places.

"Two scientists at Stanford University, for example, looking for historical data on climate change, found it in a very odd place: a small town in Alaska, in the form of a gambling contest.

"Each spring since 1917, the village of Nenana, 50 miles west of Fairbanks, has been home to the Nenana Ice Classic. It is a lottery of sorts, with residents and thousands of others betting on the precise minute the ice in the local river, the Tanana, will break up.

"…This year's jackpot of more than $300,000 was divided among eight winners, who guessed the clock would stop at precisely 1 p.m.

"The Stanford researchers realized that the annual records of the time of breakup might reflect atmospheric temperature trends. They had no doubts about the accuracy of the data, they wrote in describing their research in the journal Science, `as the high stakes lead to constant vigilance at the time of breakup.'…"

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