Bring Your Questions for FiveThirtyEight Blogger Nate Silver, Author of The Signal and the Noise

Nate Silver first gained prominence for his rigorous analysis of baseball statistics. He became even more prominent for his rigorous analysis of elections, primarily via his FiveThirtyEight blog. (He has also turned up on this blog a few times.)

Now Silver has written his first book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t. I have only read chunks so far but can already recommend it. (I would like to think his research included listening to our radio hour “The Folly of Prediction,” but I have no idea.)

A section of Signal about weather prediction was recently excerpted in the Times Magazine. Relatedly, his chapter called “A Climate of Healthy Skepticism” has already been attacked by the climate scientist Michael Mann. Given the stakes, emotions, and general unpredictability that surround climate change, I am guessing Silver will collect a few more such darts. (Yeah, we’ve been there.)

In the meantime, he has agreed to field questions about his new book from Freakonomics readers. So feel free to post your questions in the comments section below, and we’ll post his replies in short course. Here, to get you started, is the book’s table of contents:

 

1. A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE OF PREDICTION

2. ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A TELEVISION PUNDIT?

3. ALL I CARE ABOUT IS W’S AND L’S

4. FOR YEARS YOU’VE BEEN TELLING US THAT RAIN IS GREEN

5. DESPERATELY SEEKING SIGNAL

6. HOW TO DROWN IN THREE FEET OF WATER

7. ROLE MODELS

8. LESS AND LESS AND LESS WRONG

9. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINES

10. THE POKER BUBBLE

11. IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ’EM . . . 

12. A CLIMATE OF HEALTHY SKEPTICISM

13. WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU

 This post is no longer accepting comments. The answers to the Q&A can be found here.

COMMENTS: 54

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  1. Dave M says:

    If the public had no knowledge of poll results would the election outcome be any different? Is seeing “your guy” falling behind a motivation to vote? Perhaps seeing him too far behind causes people to stay home since their vote won’t matter?

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  2. Jeff Bladt says:

    What industries do you see as next to revolutionized by data? I keep hearing that PR is particularly vulnerable, in the emperor-has-no-clothes sense.

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  3. Nick says:

    Who should I bet on to win the world series?

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  4. frankenduf says:

    do u vote?- and if so, does it produce cognitive dissonance if ur stats lead u to believe that ur vote wont change the outcome?

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  5. rempart says:

    I have the book on order, can’t wait for the 27th. How about some about a fantasy baseball question? In a draft league, do you think it is best to use a good prediction model (Pecota) for example and let it stand so to speak. I mean of course, just line them up top to bottom and only use minor manipulations ( something like inside info on an injury). The question implies the use of intuition comapred to the model. Daniel Kahneman refers to this in his book “thinking slow and fast”. The notion of models outperforming intuition. He also talks about checklists as being useful, if applied in a disciplined manner. What I’m getting at it is, a baseline Pecota type projection, followed up by a checklist of the top 5-6 things that move a player off his projection. Do you think this could help identify the Jose Bautista, Cliff Lee errors earlier. Or is this just noise?

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  6. Owinok says:

    Nate, could you let readers here know what statistical analysis package you use? Secondly, have any firms or collaborators asked you to evaluate any packages that they have made?

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  7. Lenny says:

    It appears to me that prediction markets such as Intrade are continuing to grow, so I’m assuming that the insight that one can get from them is changing as more people use them. What’s your opinion of the usefulness of prediction markets and how has that changed over the past few years? How do you feel they will change moving forward?

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  8. Dutch says:

    What’s your take on the public equity markets–are they efficient or nearly-efficient? How much predictive power does a change in a company’s stock price have on future earnings annoucement?

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