October 2012

The Signal and the Noise

by Spencer Fordin/MLB.com

Nate Silver is dragging the art of prognostication into the future, far beyond the furthest reaches of divining rods and devotees to the long-dead prose of Nostradamus.

Silver, the auteur of political blog FiveThirtyEight and the creator of the PECOTA projection system for Baseball Prospectus, has brought his keen statistical mind to the way humans forecast the future in his new book, “The Signal And The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t.”

That work, which took more than three years to finish, is an engaging look at how human beings in all walks of life use probability to best handicap the future. Silver, using a firm grasp of statistics and a sturdy sense of humor, had set out in this direction before with both of his prior projects.

PECOTA was designed to compare baseball prospects to each other and to forecast their future, while FiveThirtyEight strives to make sense of the many political polls that sometimes seem in conflict with each other. Silver, in other words, separates the signal from the noise for a living.

And in his book, which came out Monday, Silver uses his same scholarly diligence and conversational style to explain some difficult concepts. He breaks down how poker players think at the table, for instance, and explains that it’s less about counting cards than hedging your bets. more

Buy The Signal and the Noise

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