Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver (2012)
[Photo courtesy of the Penguin Group]

A book about statistics is always going to be a book about statistics, but in the same vein as Freakonomics, The Signal and the Noise is definitely packaged for broader social appeal. 

While it does go into some wonky detail about the academic underpinnings of probability theory, Nate Silver's book is an interesting look at how prediction and probability works and doesn't work when applied to a variety of real-world issues. That is both useful and entertaining.

He looks at earthquake prediction, hurricane prediction, probability in poker, predicting elections, and most of it is interesting. Some of the themes repeat - some predictions fail for the same reasons, which leads to some repetitive moments - but overall the vignettes are engaging. 

And the thread that ties it all together is a valuable takeaway: trying to make a specific prediction is impossible, but looking at the overall probability of events occurring is incredibly effective, provided there is enough data to look at.

It's no Freakonomics, but it's definitely worth reading.

4 Stars.
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