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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't
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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  20,032 ratings  ·  1,827 reviews
Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. The New York Times now publishes, where Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters.

Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, S
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by Penguin (first published 2012)
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Dipu It is worth a read to understand the limitations of predictions - that is areas where predictions can be made successfully and where it does not have…moreIt is worth a read to understand the limitations of predictions - that is areas where predictions can be made successfully and where it does not have much chance of succeeding. (less)
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Michael Austin
Nate Silver has done an incredible (and, quite possibly an unpredictable) thing with _The Signal and the Noise_: He has written an extremely good book when he didn't even have to. Nothing is more common than for someone like Silver--a media phenom with a strong platform (his 538 blog) to phone a book in to cash in on his 15 minutes. I have probably read two dozen books in the past five years that do exactly this. But _The Signal and the Noise_ is a much more substantial book than, say, _The Blac ...more
The Signal and the Noise is a very interesting book with mixed success: 3 1/2 stars, were this permitted. I found it somewhat difficult to review; however, my entire book group – without exception – had similar opinions. I would encourage you to view this as a group opinion.

At its best, TSANTN is interesting, illustrative, educational, and provocative. And many chapters – including banking, the weather, volcanoes, elections, and poker – were exactly that. Four stars, without hesitation. The prob
This is a fantastic book about predictions. I enjoyed every page. The book is filled to the brim with diagrams and charts that help get the points across. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an examination of all the ways that predictions go wrong. The second part is about how applying Bayes Theorem can make predictions go right.

The book focuses on predictions in a wide variety of topics; economics, the stock market, politics, baseball, basketball, weather, climate, earthquakes
I had read most of this book with a fair degree of equanimity - finding some faults, but also a lot of good information in it. Then I'm jarred out of complacency by a sudden shot from nowhere, in which he says that David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers of the 18th century, is simply too 'daft to understand' probabilistic arguments. Without any introduction to the subject, he claims Hume is stuck in some 'skeptical shell' that prevents him from understanding the simple, elegant solutions o ...more
This is a largely reliable and interesting overview of statistical analysis in a variety of fields. Silver has gained popularity in 2008 and last year for his wizardry in aggregating poll numbers and correctly predicting the results of the election. He takes a few jabs at media pundits who are not interested in polls, but insist on manufacturing a narrative which appeals to pre-conceived notions and biases.

Silver's interests are broad and eclectic, ranging from Texas Hold 'Em and the stock marke
This book was a disappointment for me, and I feel that the time I spent reading it has been mostly wasted. I will first, however, describe what I thought is good about the book. Everything in this book is very clear and understandable. As for the content, I think that the idea of Baysean thinking is interesting and sound. The idea is that, whenever making any hypothesis (e.g. a positive mammogram is indicative of breast cancer) into a prediction (for example, that a particular woman with a posit ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Ted rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: math
4 stars.

Nate Silver is probably best known as the statistician/blogger on the New York Times web site http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.... on which he has confounded the “experts” by predicting the results of the last two U.S. Presidential elections. Before that he was known to a less wide, but no less fervid, audience as a sabermetrician who, starting in 2003, contributed predicted statistical ranges of performance for major league baseball players to the Baseball Prospectus.

In The Signal
This is a really amazing book - a must read for anyone who makes decisions or judgement calls. Even before I had finished the book it caused me to look at some of the assumptions and bad forecasts I was making as well as recognising "patterns" as noise.

There is nothing "new" in this book, just well established and solid methods applied well and explained very coherently. The writing is excellent, the graphics helpful and the type not too small. There are plenty of footnotes (relevant to the page
Mike Mueller
I followed Nate Silver's blog (FiveThirtyEight) closely during the run-up to election day 2012. His premise was simple: grab every public poll possible, attempt to correct for pollsters' known biases, and produce a forecast based on the result. Somehow no one had thought to do this before. Silver simply crunched the numbers and nailed the outcomes in every state. Meanwhile, pundits, bloggers, and assorted blowhards made predictions based on nothing but gut feeling and partisan hackery, and they ...more
I'm going to do this the Nate Silver (Bayesian) way. Kind of.

Prior Probability
Initial estimate of how likely it is that I will buy Nate Silver a drink: x = 10% (This may seem high, given that he is a stranger who lives in another city, but I did rely on his blog during the past two elections, so I'd at least like to.)
New Event -- I read Nate Silver's book
Probability that I will fly to New York and track him down and thrust a drink in his hand because this was a great book and I am impressed. y
Silver's gone 99 for 100 on predicting the state winners of the last two presidential elections. Here he goes something like 7 for 13, very good in parts, solid in some, and misfires in others. It's well-researched, mostly objective (but by no means totally), but it rarely covers anything I didn't already know. If you've read Michael Lewis's The Big Short and Moneyball you can skip chapters 1 and 3 and if you've ever had a class that proves pundits are not any more accurate forecasters than the ...more
Eh, underwhelmed. A survey of prediction and predictive tools, starting with failures and moving on to successes. Nothing particularly new or interesting here, and I think Silver knew it. It’s not like the premise that the strength of a prediction depends on the accuracy of the data is revelatory or anything. A lot of survey nonfiction like this can be saved with interesting collateral content. This book tours over a dozen topics, but I didn’t find much new or compelling or even particularly com ...more
I wanted to like this book as I enjoy reading Silver's blog. The majority of chapters in this book are inferior rehashes of arguments and anecdotes from other authors. See Moneyball, the Information, Fortune's Formula, A Random Walk, The Theory of Poker etc. etc. The book is clearly intended to capitalize on the popularity of his 538 blog, which as John Cassidy of the New Yorker just articulated overemphasizes the use of Monte-Carlo simulations to come up with inanely precise projections of a te ...more
Patrick Brown
This was a fun read that tickled the nonfiction part of my brain in pleasant ways. It felt a bit repetitive in parts, and I found myself wondering how various chapters (such as the chess chapter) related to the whole. In the end, I'll take from this book the need to think probabilistically in life, and Bayes' theorem, about which I knew little. The chapter on terrorism was an excellent ending to the book, as it not only tied the concepts together, but it also made apparent the stakes in predicti ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the process of forecasting
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: interview with the author on the Jon Stewart show
Shelves: nonfiction
Yes, this book is by that guy — Nate Silver who correctly predicted the winner of the 2008 presidential elections in 49 out of 50 states. That might seem off-putting. The credentials portend a heavy tome on statistics. Those fears are quickly allayed. This book is entertaining as well as informative.

Silver offers solace to those frustrated by information overload. Over-simplification on the one hand and brute-force data crunching on the other can both lead to serious errors. Of the latter he wr
Mal Warwick
An eminently readable book about how experts make sense of the world (or, more often, don’t)

Statisticians rarely become superstars, but Nate Silver is getting close. This is the guy who writes the blog for the New York Times and has correctly predicted the outcome of the last two presidential elections in virtually every one of the 50 states. But Silver is no political maven weaned on election trivia at his parents’ dinner table: he earned his stripes as a prognosticator supp
Rachel Bayles
While not terrible, I simply didn't find this book all that interesting. There isn't much here that you don't already know. It's not that it's badly written, and he clearly did his research. But it drones on without every jumping out and grabbing the reader.

In general, I'm a fan of the NY Times writers, and have read several books by them which read more as a series of columns, rather than a cohesive whole. So I'm not against the concept per se. But Mr. Silver strikes me as someone who has yet
Susan Visser
I really enjoyed the book, Nate's talk, and meeting him in person. The book is about predictions and goes through many world events that we can all relate to and discusses the signals and noise that went on around these events.

You'll recognize the 2008 US election, the large earthquakes, especially in Japan, swine flu, both the one in the 70s and the more recent epidemic, economic meltdowns, 911, Pearl Harbour, stock market fluctuations, and much more. Throughout these stories, we learn about w
Reading Nate Silver is like exhaling after holding your breath for a really long time. I found FiveThirtyEight back in the primary days of 2008, when it was Hillary and Barack fighting it out, and it became apparent that not one of Hillary's advisers to whom she was presumably paying lots and lots of money were as smart or observant as Nate Silver (or Obama's advisers). One of my favorite tweets ever (I don't read many tweets) came from Ken Jennings on election morning of 2012, something along t ...more
Brian Clegg
It was really interesting coming to this book soon after reading The Black Swan, as in some ways they cover similar ground – but take a very different approach. I ought to say straight away that this book is too long at a wrist-busting 534 pages, but on the whole it is much better than its rival. Where Black Swan is written in a highly self-indulgent fashion, telling us far too much about the author and really only containing one significant piece of information, Signal and Noise has much more c ...more
Nate Silver is clearly trying to do the "unusual analysis of normal occurances" thing that Freakonomics did, although his topics are a bit bigger and his discussion is a little more numbers oriented. Unfortunately, it's also less engaging. He's not a terrible writer, per se, especially given how data driven he is, but he's also not particularly compelling.

A lot of the subjects he covers are potentially interesting. The problem is that the academic tone combined with his often abstract subject m
This book had so many parts that really captured my attention. The chapter on chess was particularly fascinating. Nate Silver did a great job of compiling vignettes about humans and our inability to see the signal through the noise.

On the other hand, this book is simply a series of vignettes. And while I love that they are told in a way that conveys the point, I didn't feel like each chapter I was continuing on a journey or growing from point to point. It was just a series of points, tacked on.
First things first: skip the introduction. It's more boring than any other section, and all it tells is what the general outline of the book is. You can get that from the contents.

This is a book which is very well-researched, and well-reasoned, with apt examples. The net result is that what Silver is saying seems self-evident. Forecasting is hard, forecasting accurately is harder. The National Weather Service gets it right, the McLoughlin Group gets it horrifically wrong, but earns ratings. By t
I approached this book a bit fearfully. One television personality, while plugging Silver, recently described his work as a triumph of arithmetic, and any description of statistics as a magic bullet or of one's choice of statistical methods as being self-evident should viewed with caution. Thankfully, Silver is a careful and thoughtful writer, and one of his central theses is that prediction and statistical inference are difficult. He covers varying successes and failures in fields such as baseb ...more
I really enjoyed this - it was actually what I expected, but I'm not sure if its what everyone expects.

Firstly, don't bother unless you're a complete statistics geek (I am). But of statistics, there's loads and loads, from baseball to poker to chess to 9/11 (and terrorism) to weather to earthquakes. So many great graphs and use of statistics tests to prove or disprove something.

Mostly its about Bayesian theory - how and when its used, along with what it could be used for.

What it's not is a Nate
Eric Lin
Pretty fantastic series of case studies about things we make predictions about. He's refreshingly honest about how his success stems from making better predictions in areas where there wasn't a lot of previous work already done. It seems he leaves the complex modeling to others, and spends most of his time observing general trends, and making macro-level forecasts.

Some parts of the book were kind of very "Nate Silver" - his initials are embossed on the front cover, he name drops constantly, ment
This is a good book on the role of probability in natural sciences, social sciences, games, and sports. Silver examines areas where we've done poorly in our predictions (e.g. economy, earthquakes, infectious diseases, global climate change), where we've made improvements in our predictions (e.g. weather forecast), and where we can do fairly well due to the availability of good data (e.g. sports, games, elections). The chapter on how Deep Blue beat Kasparov is fascinating, but a single paragraph ...more
3.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because I like stats. The first half of this book is fantastic: it outlines the issues that cause people to make terrible predictions. Across many fields, people are not so good at prediction, for a number of reasons. Silver fights the idea that having enough data means that predictions will be great. Data is noisy, and just adding more noisy data isn't going to allow computers to magically find signal. There's a reason why statisticians say "Garbage in, garbage ou ...more
(5.0) Fantastic walk through use and abuse of statistics

Best book I've read all year! ;) I'm glad he didn't bathe himself in glory over his presidential and congressional predictions. Appreciate the discussions that use examples such as sports, medicine, weather, climate, poker, the stock market to illustrate his points. Just a very intelligent book I wholeheartedly recommend to all.
Bottom Line: Really well written book on the role statistics and modeling play in the modern world.

The book talks about a lot of systems, but I feel the three take away points on which Silver has a unique perspective are:

1) The profusion of large data sets has made finding insight harder not easier. Large sets tackled with standard statistical tools lead to a lot of false positives as one creates synthetic variables. Understanding and a good base model are required to bring this into focus. That
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genre X: It's happening! April Discussion: The Signal and the Noise 1 43 Jan 23, 2013 08:33AM  
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  • Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
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  • Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science
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Nathaniel Read "Nate" Silver (born January 13, 1978) is an American statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections. He is currently the editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog and a Special Correspondent for ABC News. Silver first gained public recognition for developing PECOTA, a system for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players, wh ...more
More about Nate Silver...
The signal and the noise [sound recording] : why most predictions fail--but some don't The Best American Infographics 2014 Baseball Prospectus 2009: The Essential Guide to the 2009 Baseball Season Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong The Importance of Ideas: 16 thoughts to get you thinking (Guardian Shorts)

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“Most of you will have heard the maxim "correlation does not imply causation." Just because two variables have a statistical relationship with each other does not mean that one is responsible for the other. For instance, ice cream sales and forest fires are correlated because both occur more often in the summer heat. But there is no causation; you don't light a patch of the Montana brush on fire when you buy a pint of Haagan-Dazs.” 10 likes
“Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge: the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 9 likes
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