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

View All Comments »
  1. Daniel says:

    For about as long as you’ve been releasing your predictions for 2012, the Electoral College Distribution chart in your forecast displays a big spike somewhere in the 330s, at a much higher probability than anything else around it. What combination(s) of states lead to that outcome, and why is it so likely?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  2. Robin Vernooij says:

    On basis of what methodology criteria do you rate the polls on bias? Which kind of specific methodology features of the polls do you take into account? Data collection, data extraction and sample size? How willing are all the polls to share this with you?

    Thanks for your great work and greetings from Barcelona, your work is appreciated here as well.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  3. Paul Kim says:

    How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Follow-up question: why is it so frickin’ hard to predict the outcome of a week’s slate of NFL football games (large group of actors) and the outcome of certain, high-profile Supreme Court cases (small group of actors)?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Alan T says:

    Under what circumstances will a voter actually change his/her mind about whom to vote for? (I’m sure every politician in the world would like to know this, too.) I understand that this rarely happens (see, for example, http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/09/21/there-go-the-undecided-voters/), and that most of the action involves undecided voters deciding whom to vote for.

    Also, if political scientist are right that voters rarely change their minds, how can a large swing in the polls ever occur? A classic example that your briefly mention in your book is that of Michael Dukakis, who was ahead of GHW Bush by 10% at one point in 1988.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Mike says:

    What is your take on the theories of election rigging in Ohio during the 2004 presidential race? Is this just a case of people not realizing the inherent biases of polls and assuming that polling results should tie directly to election results?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0