Nate Silver Says: “Everyone Is Kind of Weird” (Ep. 204)

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Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Nate Silver Says: ‘Everyone Is Kind of Weird” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) 

Nate Silver: "One of the most profound lessons to me about adulthood is that everyone is kind of weird." (Photo: Randy Stewart)

Nate Silver: “One of the most profound lessons to me about adulthood is that everyone is kind of weird.” (Photo: Randy Stewart)

Every time we ask you, our readers and listeners, who you might want to hear from on a podcast, one name always makes the list: Nate Silver. Today, your dream becomes reality.

Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of of, is America’s favorite statistical guru of the past – well, maybe ever. He has been devilishly accurate in predicting electoral outcomes. Before that, he joined the small but influential fraternity of statheads who work with data in sports, particularly baseball. (As he tells us, Bill James has been the biggest influence on Silver’s professional life.) He has written an excellent book called The Signal and the Noise, which is essentially about the folly of prediction. And this week he is our guest on the latest installment of FREAK-quently Asked Questions, in which we compel a noteworthy person to tell us some important truths.

In earlier FAQ’s, we heard from Boris Johnson (the mayor of London) and Kevin Kelly (the technology maverick). Now it’s Silver’s turn to tell us about his favorite sport, food, and book; to talk about the “hedonistic treadmill”; and of course what he’s thinking about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election — although he isn’t the political junkie that you might imagine:

SILVER: I don’t even always watch the State of the Union, for example. Whereas I very much do enjoy watching and spending income on going to  sports games. … I mean, I am a politics geek, but I don’t love politics. I think that’s helpful, potentially. I think in Washington in particular, there’s a lot of reverence for the political system that leads to less criticality in coverage.


I was disappointed to hear Nate Silver refer to the STEM "shortage" (I believe his exact words were "shortage of STEM talent"). Those of us in the fields covered by STEM know this is an often repeated myth, usually by politicians and others looking to make a point about education or immigration policy.

The truth is, if you look at the data, unemployment among new grads in most physical science fields is very high. In chemistry, my field, for bachelors its 16% and PhDs its 9%. Its worse in other fields like biology and there is a large "shadow unemployed" population of PhDs who are employed in very low paying, temporary post-doctoral fellowships ("postdocs" in the vernacular).

The only field in which a "shortage" could be said to exist is in the 'E' of STEM: engineering. And within engineering, its really only computer science folks. And even in that field, the job market is only really good for younger programmers (not people from back in the dot com bust).

So, Freakonomics: I challenge you to look into the data on this and dispel the myth that there is a STEM shortage in America. Too many important policy decisions and life choices are being made with this myth in mind. I think you'll find there is really a STEM glut, as most of us in the STEM fields think.


Alex in Chicago

I'd add we need MechE, ChemE, and EE undergrads at astounding rates. IMO there is a push for more STEM grads mostly because people really are just looking for people to go into more competitive and difficult programs.

The truth is, at most major universities, there is only minimal value to the actual process of getting a degree, and if you have 100% of the knowledge, but no degree you are getting like 5% value (sheepskin effect). Forward looking people, I think, see this and realize that once people recognize that there is very little being taught in many of these programs, people who graduated from STEM majors will be better off. Mostly because they are the only ones who actually did something in college that a high school graduate could not.


I believe a curling lane is called a sheet. Source: I'm Canadian.

randy smoren

I enjoy listening to your podcasts. If not tied then a very close second to this American life. But that’s not why I’m writing to you. I enjoyed your interview with Nate Silver. My question is this, when predicting electoral outcomes, how if at all does he factor in ballot rigging by the political establishment? And yes it does happen does it not. The list is endless, hanging chads anyone? A good read on this topic is Billionaires & Ballot Bandits how to steal an election in 9 easy steps. By Greg Plast. Yes it’s been out for a while and I just finished it, but I’m cheap and don’t like paying full price if I don’t have to. Isn’t that the freakonimic way?

Randy Smoren


Just a comment on your segment about running political campaigns and/or national conventions from Las Vegas: Your guest said something to the effect that the Libertarians might hold a rally or some other convention in Vegas, As a matter of fact there is a wonderful Libertarian/Free Think event each year in Las Vegas, its called FreedomFest.

My husband and I have attended the past 2 years, and we are planning to be there this July 8-11th. There are wonderful forums on all things Libertarian, plus a film festival with great independent films about Freedom.

It would be great if Freakonomics could be there to cover the event, or at least mention it on a broadcast or two.

All patriotic Americans should go to FreedomFest. It is all about the love of our Country, and the need to keep us free.

Thanks for all of your great shows. I listen to the podcast every week.

Randee Laskewitz
Port Orange, FL