Book Review: Nate Silver – The Signal and the Noise

Book Review: Nate SilverThe Signal and the Noise:Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don’t

English: Nate Silver in Washington, D.C.

English: Nate Silver in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just before the presidential elections ended, I watched The Colbert Report on Comedy Central cable.  They were interviewing Nate Silver.  Jon Steward – the host – asked Nate one day before the election this question: Who did he think would win?  Nate was confident Obama would win. Nate has a New York Times blog at Blog Post

My local public library had a copy.  They gave me two weeks to read it.

But I do have some background to review this book.  Here’s what I share in my About page Q and A:

“Do you know anything about analytics?”

“Yes I do! I have a bachelors in math from Aurora University.  I also have a black belt from Motorola, where I have worked on projects and mentored other  Motorola Mobility belt candidates. One of my duties at Motorola was to oversee Unix Apache web servers and Oracle database services for engineers.  Reviewing stats became paramount.”

Just to let you know, this is a book about applied statistics.  Two topics covered are:

  • Bayesian statistics (see Blog Post): Wiki defines this as, “a subset of the field of statistics in which the evidence about the true state of the world is expressed in terms of degrees of belief or, more specifically, Bayesian probabilities. Such an interpretation is only one of a number of interpretations of probability and there are many other statistical techniques that are not based on “degrees of belief”.”
  • Bayes’ analysis (see Blog Post): Wiki defines this as, “Bayesian inference is a method of inference in which Bayes’ rule is used to update the probability estimate for a hypothesis as additional evidence is learned. “

    Cover of

    Cover via Amazon

But it’s not a textbook.  It’s a book about modeling and why predictive models fail.  It goes into a bit of history.  We dive into poker and baseball – two of Nate’s favorite statistical modeling applications.  We follow weather, economics, politics and chess.  In fact, this book presents the best explanation for the economic meltdown I’ve seen.

It’s very interesting – yet it lacks a literary flair.  There’s only book about mathematics with a literary flair I’ve read.  It’s call Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter (see Amazon at http://is.gd/Hatuni ).  Another literary flair book I recall is The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. Nate’s writing style might be more terse than the previously mentioned books.

This book lacks the engaging style of markers Zig Ziglar or Seth Goldin.  It lacks the more personal touch of books by Napoleon Hill or Dale Carnegie.  But it’s better than a textbook.  I learned some new things.  Some things I thought about in a different way.  Perhaps if I had more than two weeks to read it, I could reread it a couple of times.  But it’s definitely worthwhile.

Academic and business blog posts

Here are some blog posts I recommend from academic and business acquaintances of mine

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