Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who is Nate Silver?

So, Tuesday night I was watching the election results come in from around the country, and I was also watching my Twitter feed, just to see what people were saying about the election.

And I kept running across this name... Nate Silver.  People were posting things like.... the big winner tonight is Nate Silver.  And "Vindication for Nate Silver", and things of that nature.

I'd never heard of the guy.  I was confused.  Who is this Nate Silver, and what has he done?

Who is this guy, and why are people talking about him?

So I had to Google him... turns out, this guy is a math whiz, and statistics guru, who back in 2008 correctly predicted the election results for 49 of the 50 states.  And he was knocking it out of the park, again (I use a baseball analogy here, because he got his start as a baseball "sabermatrician").

Basically, he's a math guy, who studies data and statistics, and sets up an algorithm to accurately predict performance.  He started in baseball, and then moved on to politics.  He now runs a blog for the New York Times.

In 2008, he got 49 of 50 states correct.  This past Tuesday?  50 out of 50.  So basically, in the last two presidential elections he has accurately predicated the results in 99 out of 100 states.

Here is the results from Tuesday night, compared side by side with Silver's projection(s).

Not bad, huh?

Big Deal, you say?  Who cares?  Well, his predictions were widely criticized by well known political pundits.  Joe Scarborough went as far as to call him "a joke" and to publicly bet Silver a $2,000 donation to the Red Cross, that he was wrong.  Scarborough wasn't the only one.

It seems like "political pundits" were not only upset at the results he was coming up with (their guy wasn't winning), but possibly they were afraid for their livelihood?

What's the point of paying some "politico" to guess about "how people will vote" based on their experience...when scientific polling and statistics are shown to be a better measure?  People are already writing that Silver's research has made the way elections are covered obsolete.

It's very likely that in the next Presidential election in four years, you are going to see less of the Karl Roves and James Carvilles.... who are not only emotionally, but financially invested in who wins.  And instead you will see someone in the relatively new field of Political Data Science.

So, what does this mean for Education?

Well, how about The Power of Math!

No matter how you slice it, there is no substitute for data.

In addition to being some sort of hero, to the Math Geniuses of the world, Mr. Silver has also written a book, "The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't".

In fact, as the final results were rolling in on Tuesday night, Silver tweeted this to the world.

And just in case you were wondering.... Yes, I went right to the site, and bought it.
(I bought the Kindle version though).

Evidently, I wasn't the only one to do so.

Soon to be a Best Seller?

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