Stephen Hawking is not a football fan, nor does he bet on sporting events, but that hasn't stopped the theoretical physicist from teaming up with a popular Irish bookmaker to help increase England's chances of World Cup success.
Professor Hawking was asked to spend one month studying England's previous tournament outings to see if he could draw any conclusions from them. Surprisingly, the 72-year-old said yes to the bookie's request. "Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable," the author of A Brief History of Time told a press conference. "They have craved understanding of the underlying order in the world. The World Cup is no different."
Hawking has presented findings in a report that uses statistics and detailed formulae to analyze the most favorable conditions for England success, based on their 70 tournament matches since 1966. You can read the 19-page report here, but here are some of the key take-aways:
- The Three Lions traditionally do better in temperate climates, at low altitudes and in late afternoon kick-offs. The heat and late start time of England's match with Italy in Manaus is therefore "far from ideal," while the game in Belo Horizonte against Costa Rica is "the best of a bad bunch." And not just because it's against Costa Rica.
- England's are 20% more successful in their red away kit. A study found red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant. Which explains the hubris of Liverpool fans this season.
-England win 63% of games with European referees compared to 38% when they are from elsewhere. "European referees," remarks Hawking, "are more sympathetic to the English game and less sympathetic to ballerinas like Suarez." Please take a moment to reflect on one of the smartest people in the world calling Luis Suarez a ballerina.
- Penalties. Hawking studied every shootout since they were introduced in 1978 (that's 204 penalty attempts) to get to the bottom of England's rubbishness. "As we say in science," he concluded, "England couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo." To remedy this, England will need to "give it some welly" and take at least three steps in the run-up. Penalties are 10% more successful when hit with the side of the foot and there is an 84% success rate when they are placed in either of the top corners. Hawking also notes that blonde or ginger players have scored 84% of the time in World Cup shootouts, while bald 'ballers scored 71 per cent of the time. Is it too late to call up Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt again?
- This is a general logistic equation to show how exactly England can win:
Fun fact: Hawking actually found this equation on a chalk board outside his office, where Wayne Rooney happened to be working as a janitor.
The bookmaker who commissioned the report refused to reveal how much they had paid Hawking, but the cosmologist donated his fee to a charity that helps children in Syria and another for motor neuron disease. So, even if you feel these statistics are completely useless, their creation has done some good.
The professor also spoke to BBC Newsnight, where he tipped Daniel Sturridge to be England's top goalscorer above Rooney. "You don't need to be a great mathematician to work this out," he said, before furiously typing out an equation to explain the Liverpool striker's goal celebration dance.
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