David Stern: Big Data, Advanced Analytics, and a New Age for the NBA
The former commissioner weighs in on advanced analytics in the NBA and explains how team front offices crunch data to improve their court strategy.
David Stern completed his three-decade tenure as NBA commissioner on February 1, 2014.
As commissioner, Mr. Stern built the model for professional sports in league operations, public service, global marketing and digital technology. He oversaw the NBA’s extraordinary growth with seven new franchises, a more than 30-fold increase in revenues, a dramatic expansion of national television exposure and the launch of two leagues, the Women’s National Basketball Association and the NBA Development League. He implemented the first anti-drug agreement in professional sports and introduced the salary cap system and revenue sharing to the NBA.
The NBA experienced tremendous global growth during Mr. Stern’s tenure, and that growth continues today: The NBA has 12 offices outside the United States; its games and programming are televised and streamed in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages; and it offers fans 18 international online destinations. The NBA was the first U.S. professional sports league to stage regular-season games outside North America, and the league has played nearly 150 international preseason and regular-season games to date.
Mr. Stern also oversaw the launch of the leagues’ digital assets, including NBA.com, WNBA.com, and NBADLeague.com; social media platforms; NBA LEAGUE PASS; NBA TV; and mobile applications, all of which reach hundreds of millions of fans every day.
David Stern: We decided to install SportsVU cameras because they gave really enhanced data but they were being installed individually by certain select teams. And we thought that it should be available to the league as a whole. Those teams weren’t that happy about it but the tradeoff was they now got the data as all teams did from 29 arenas rather than from just the few that had it. And that has worked out very well for us.
If you want to have four trillion facts you can go to NBA.com/stats and the SAP HANA program will give you all of those statistics. You’ve got the SportsVU statistics. You’ve got a high speed arena network that brings the video back from every arena for replay. But once it’s there for replay it can be diced and chopped and sent out, Tweeted, you name it. So we’re, you know, the age of analytics is upon us and we wanted to be ahead of it. And that’s like an example of things being available to us that weren’t available before. Pre SportsVU – a decade ago we were primitive compared to where we are now and I think in another decade we’ll look back and see how primitive we are now but we’re so much further advanced because I’ve been wearing my venture capital hat. I’ve been looking at some applications in sports. It’s amazing and it’s like not amazing. You know and you can stop the camera and look. At this moment that player in that position if he shoots he’s a 60 percent shooter. If he moves three feet to his right or his left or down court he becomes a 40 percent shooter. You know the ability to know so much about your team and every other team and about every player current and future is very much going to make big data a much more relevant player in all sports and including the NBA.
It’s currently at the stage where every team has two or three or four or five or six people dealing with data. In some cases in the last couple of years they didn’t know what to do with it. And in many cases the coaches will say well it’s, you know, it’s good to have but you’ve got to have your instincts as well. I think ultimately it’s going to affect the substitutional patterns. There’s going to be a coach, assistant coach on the bench that’s going to be looking at the video of the game, everything else. And you’re going to know exactly – at the end of the game your opposing team is going to go to this player 82 percent of the time for that shot, let’s defend him. And in some ways the coach has to understand and will and they do understand because they’re smart and they’re adaptive. It’s one thing to say player X shoots 50 percent but if he shoots 60 percent from the left and 40 percent from the right you better get him the ball on the left. And you don’t know that unless you use the data to tell you that.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Several years ago, the NBA installed SportsVU cameras in every team arena. The data collected by these cameras has fueled a big data renaissance that has team front offices relying on advanced analytics to improve court strategy. Commissioner Emeritus David Stern explains how the new statistics have changed the league and posits that future stats will only be more impressive.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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