Do you love to watch movies? Who doesn't, right? As you watch a movie, you often think ahead, WONDERing what's about to happen next. Some of the best movies surprise us with things we never saw coming.

Each day, we spend time thinking about the future and what lies ahead. While we live in the moment and often think fondly of the past, we also spend a good chunk of time thinking about the future and trying to anticipate what's around the corner.

Of course, some people, such as fortune tellers, claim that they can see and accurately predict the future. Have you ever predicted something was going to happen and then it did? Most of us have, but if we're honest, our prediction was probably the result of a good guess based upon available data and past experiences rather than a vision of the future.

Some people even get paid to predict the future. For example, have you ever thought about what a tough job the weatherman has? Scientists called meteorologists make a living trying to predict what the weather is going to be like for the next few days, weeks, or months.

Would you want a job that required you to predict the future with some degree of accuracy? There are many other types of jobs in the world today that require people to think critically about the future and try to forecast what's likely to happen in a number of different ways.

Financial analysts, for example, collect a large variety of data to try to predict what stock prices will do in the short- and long-term. Their analysis is relied upon by thousands of people who invest money for others. A correct prediction can make — or lose! — millions of people billions of dollars.

So how do people with these types of jobs handle the pressure? No, they don't rely upon a crystal ball. Most of them rely on data — and lots of it! — to make educated guesses about the future.

Sometimes that data takes the form of statistics. Statistics use mathematical data to calculate probabilities based upon current trends and past experiences. For example, a meteorologist might gather data about the current temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure. Based upon what has happened in the past with similar readings, the meteorologist might be able to predict that there's a 50% probability of rain in the near future.

As any person who regularly tries to predict the future can tell you, the past is an important tool in determining what will happen in the future. It's past experiences that can be collected in the form of data to calculate probabilities of certain events happening in the future.

Whether you know it or not, you've calculated odds and made good guesses about future behavior based upon past experiences. It's just human nature. For example, if your neighbor walks her dog every single morning at 6am, you can probably make a fairly accurate guess that tomorrow morning at 6am she'll be walking her dog.

Is this because you can see and predict the future? Nope! You just know, based upon past experiences, what is likely to happen. Maybe she'll feel tired tomorrow and walk the dog later. Or perhaps she'll skip a day. Those are possibilities, but the odds are that she'll walk the dog at 6am like she does every day.

So see? Predicting the future is a little less mysterious than it might first seem. All you need is some historical data and some basic mathematical skills and you, too, can make some good educated guesses about what's likely to happen in the future. Replace that crystal ball with a calculator and start looking forward!

Wonder What's Next?

If words are spelled the same and pronounced the same, do they mean the same thing? Find out tomorrow in Wonderopolis!