September 12, 2013

Vol. 29 , No. 01   

View Entire Issue (Vol. 29 , No. 01)

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

Nate Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters and popular statisticians. In 2008, Silver founded his blog,, which provides a data-driven analysis of everything from politics to technology to sports. The site drew acclaim for providing in-depth and accurate political forecasts of the 2008 and 2012 national elections. According to one statistic, on the eve of the national election in 2012, one in five people going to The New York Times website were visiting FiveThirtyEight.

Silver’s influential role in political forecasting was by no means a given for an economics major from the University of Chicago interested in baseball. In 2002, Nate Silver was working as a consultant for the accounting firm KPMG when he developed a new method for predicting the performance of baseball players, which was quickly acquired by the Web site Baseball Prospectus. Using his knowledge of statistics, Silver engaged himself for a time playing professional poker before becoming interested in political predictions. After the 2008 presidential election when he correctly predicted the results of the primaries and the presidential winner in 49 states, his blog became an overnight sensation.

While only 35, Nate Silver has earned numerous awards and accolades. In September 2008, FiveThirtyEight became the first blog to be selected as a Notable Narrative by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Silver has been named among TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and Rolling Stone’s 100 Agents of Change. in 2012 and 2013. He was also named OUT magazine’s person of the year in 2012.

In September 2012, Silver published, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t. Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Noam Scheiber predicted, “it could turn out to be one of the more momentous books of the decade.” Upon release, the book became a best seller on The New York Times list for nonfiction and named it as the best nonfiction book of 2012.
Nate Silver is the inaugural Res Publica Speaker for the 2013-2014 academic year.