Professor Steve Begg at the Santos School of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Adelaide is using the same uncertainty modelling often applied to oil and gas exploration to guess the outcome of the FIFA World Cup that begins tonight (Australian time).
His guess is that 2014 winner Germany has a 13.3% of winning, but host nation Russia has the home advantage (though whether they will need it against the Saudis in the kick off game remains to be seen).
Begg's model comes from his research regarding decision-making under uncertainty, and the human judgement that impacts it, mostly within oil and gas exploration.
His blueprint is the World War 2 vintage Monte Carlo simulation developed by Manhattan Project scientists and works by studying enough possibilities to estimate any outcome, rather than trying to work out every outcome possible.
Though its start came from scientists working on the atom bomb it is now used across varied areas from oil and gas to finance, insurance and transport and by simulating over and over produces distributions of possible outcomes.
It relates to oil and gas exploration as it can be used to generate the range of anticipated outcomes for a discovery by combining different aspects of the prospect, meaning a low P90 might consist of a small trap and range of poor reservoir properties but a high P10 would hold the opposite.
There are 430 million outcomes for the group stage, the first stage of the contest, alone and of all the matches to the final Begg has generated 100,000 possible outcomes, which is enough to assess how each team will progress.
His computing can run 800 simulations a second.
The two key uncertainties are ‘tournament form' and ‘match form', the first being general performance entering the finals and the latter whether the team plays better or worse than tournament form in any particular match.
Match scores are derived from the likely number of goals based on scores from every match in the last three cups then allocated to the two teams based on relative match form.
FIFA rankings over the past four years, which are modified by Begg's own knowledge of the game and team are one input.
Russia scores higher for tournament form based on home team advantage, which is a kinder assessment than a recent front page of the Moscow Times headlined: Destined for Defeat.
Meanwhile "poorer" teams have greater "giant killing" than their betters, which might explain the generous chances modelled for the Socceroos, which are as follows: a 14% chance of advancing through the Groups stage, 3.8% of making the quarter finals, 1.2% of the semi-finals, 0.3% of being in the final, and 0.1% chance of winning the cup.
"Probability is subjective, it depends on what you know," Begg said.
"It doesn't need data.
"You use what information you have to assign a degree of belief in what might happen, and thus make decisions or, in this case, a judgement on who wins. The crucial thing is that your information and reasoning is not biased."
"It is really important to base beliefs on evidence and reason, not what you would like to be true."
The Englishman did not offer any judgement on how well England will do.
Australia will play France in its first match, Saturday 6pm AWST.