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Can you solve the fantasy election riddle? - Dennis E. Shasha


1,275 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

After much debate, the realm has decided dragon jousting may not be the best way to choose its leaders, and has begun transitioning to democracy. Your company was hired to survey the citizens of the land and predict which candidate will win. There’s a lot riding on this: if you get it wrong, heads— well, your head— will quite literally roll. Can you predict the winner? Dennis Shasha shows how.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Psephology is the study of the science of polling. A nice review of the issues can be found here. The Pew Research Center has conducted polls on all kinds of topics and discusses methods. There are also books on polling techniques and statistics. Privacy is of course a major concern these days (Pew even has a survey about this). The inspiration for this puzzle came from the field of differential privacy.

There are many pollsters around the world. In the United States, the website FiveThirtyEight is famous for predicting elections using polling. Discussions about the validity of polling appear around every major election. Privacy-preserving polling deserves an experiment. If you are a student at a school, you can try doing an experiment to explore this topic more. To learn more about elections and voting in the United States what these TED-Ed lessons on the electoral college, voting systems, and gerrymandering.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Dennis E. Shasha
  • Director Igor Coric, Artrake Studio
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma

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