Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: The Signal and the Noise

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t by Nate Silver. Silver is the prediction phenom who successfully called every state in the last presidential election. This book discusses the prediction of many types of events: sports, politics, weather, the stock market, earthquakes, and even terrorist attacks.

Silver’s popular blogging style serves him well here; even in an extended discussion of over 400 pages, I wasn’t bored, and the math was explained well enough that I—or a typical lay reader—could understand it. As Silver explains, the secret to better (not necessarily successful) prediction lies in examining what is known about the event we want to predict and discerning from all the available data which are the patterns that can help with prediction, and which are just noise. Although I’m normally into the humanities, I do enjoy books like this once in a while; if you liked (or might like) Freakonomics, you’d probably like this book. 3.5/5*

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