Brownstein: For both elections and asteroids, Philippe J. Fournier has our numbers

“I’ve always been a fan of the politics game, though politicians often make me want to roll my eyes all the way to Pluto,” says the astrophysicist and creator of the poll aggregation website Qc125.com.

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Philippe J. Fournier is feeling a little tired this morning. Understandable.

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The night before, I was not only analyzing the numbers coming out of the latest Léger poll on the Quebec elections, but I was also focused on the NASA spacecraft that crashed into an asteroid in the afterlife, in the first great test of the planetary defense of humanity. Also, Fournier was trying to catch a glimpse of Jupiter.

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What?

As many know, Fournier is one of the country’s leading political polling analysts through his Qc125.com Y 338Canada.com sites Compare the results of myriad provincial, federal, and even US polls to make projections about election results.

Fournier is also an astrophysicist and professor who knows all about black holes in the universe.e — outside the realm of politics, ie. It can offer projections about the probability of asteroids hitting this planet. Like others of his cosmic ilk, he was delighted with the results of Monday’s DART mission, which provided some evidence that the space hit may have thrown that asteroid off balance a bit, which could one day save Earth from being wiped out. . .

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“It was so beautiful to see those scientists happy and explaining what they did,” says Fournier. “It is a balm for the soul to see when NASA science is so successful and it makes me very happy for humanity. As someone tweeted: ‘This one was for the dinosaurs.’ ”

Gotta love that astrophysical ingenuity.

When not analyzing the poll numbers, Fournier has been a professor at the CEGEP de Saint-Laurent, teaching courses in physics, astrophysics and astronomy for the past 20 years. He earned degrees in astrophysics at McGill and Université Laval, and then did wonderful research with telescopes “with many stars” at Mont Mégantic in the eastern townships.

So how are Fournier’s seemingly diverse worlds connected?

“I’ve always been a fan of the game of politics, though politicians often make me want to roll my eyes all the way to Pluto,” he says. “Politics is not really a game, but elections are.”

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In his downtime, Fournier worked on his programming skills and created his first website himself.

“I learned a lot about astrophysics programming. In this field, you don’t have a laboratory. Your laboratory is your computer, where you create images and data of the sky.”

After taking political science courses at Concordia, Fournier’s two worlds collided. It all came together with the 2016 US presidential election.

“I was so angry reading the coverage and the analysis of the polls, that I felt they were just atrocious,” he recalls. “After Trump won the election, which was a surprise but not an impossible once-in-a-century event, I read some articles in the Quebec media about the polls and realized that many journalists, as good as They are, they don’t know much about math. They do not do statistical research.

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“So I thought it was time to get a scientist’s eye on the data, and I started blogging about surveys and trying to break down the data, to deliver better data for better results. And remember: I’m not a pollster, just an analyst.”

Fournier points out that political parties with more money for research, which do a lot of polling, make better decisions. As an example, he cites Liberal leader Dominique Anglade’s decision to campaign in Quebec City and northern Quebec in midweek before returning to Montreal.

“What you really should be doing is trying to secure your vote in Montreal, Laval and Outaouais. But because they may lack the correct data, they don’t realize there is no reason for her to be in Quebec City, where the Liberals will get zero seats and finish fifth. So why should she be wasting her time there?

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So there are similar computational quirks in politics and astrophysics.

“We have come full circle,” reflects Fournier, who contributes his findings to L’actualité, among other media. “Politicians, like scientists, would do a better job if they had a better idea of ​​the landscape.”

In the 2020 US presidential election, Fournier led just about everyone with his results, saying 48 of 50 states were right, plus DC. well within the margin of error.” In the 2021 Canadian election, he got 92% correct calls in all 338 constituencies.

“I don’t make predictions. I make projections”.

As for Fournier’s Quebec projection: “A sweep for the CWC, and it looks like the Liberals will retain official opposition status. But not because they are doing very well, but because the other parties are divided. The question now is whether the Parti Québécois is really making a comeback.”

And as for an asteroid hitting Earth:

“It’s 100 percent going to happen. These things happen all the time. Sometimes they are peanuts. The last really big one, the Chicxulub impactor, was 66 million years ago. So, it could be another million or 30 million years for another one like that.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/billbrownstein

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