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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't Paperback – Feb 3 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (Feb. 3 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143125087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143125082
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #13,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


One of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012

“Not so different in spirit from the way public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith once shaped discussions of economic policy and public figures like Walter Cronkite helped sway opinion on the Vietnam War…could turn out to be one of the more momentous books of the decade.”
New York Times Book Review

“Mr. Silver, just 34, is an expert at finding signal in noise… Lively prose — from energetic to outraged… illustrates his dos and don’ts through a series of interesting essays that examine how predictions are made in fields including chess, baseball, weather forecasting, earthquake analysis and politics… [the] chapter on global warming is one of the most objective and honest analyses I’ve seen… even the noise makes for a good read.”
New York Times

"A serious treatise about the craft of prediction—without academic mathematics—cheerily aimed at lay readers. Silver's coverage is polymathic, ranging from poker and earthquakes to climate change and terrorism."
—New York Review of Books

"Mr. Silver's breezy style makes even the most difficult statistical material accessible. What is more, his arguments and examples are painstakingly researched..."
Wall Street Journal

"Nate Silver is the Kurt Cobain of statistics... His ambitious new book, The Signal and the Noise, is a practical handbook and a philosophical manifesto in one, following the theme of prediction through a series of case studies ranging from hurricane tracking to professional poker to counterterrorism. It will be a supremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to make good guesses about the future, or who wants to assess the guesses made by others. In other words, everyone."
The Boston Globe

"Silver delivers an improbably breezy read on what is essentially a primer on making predictions."
Washington Post
The Signal and the Noise is many things — an introduction to the Bayesian theory of probability, a meditation on luck and character, a commentary on poker's insights into life — but it's most important function is its most basic and absolutely necessary one right now: a guide to detecting and avoiding bullshit dressed up as data…What is most refreshing… is its humility. Sometimes we have to deal with not knowing, and we need somebody to tell us that.”

[An] entertaining popularization of a subject that scares many people off… Silver’s journey from consulting to baseball analytics to professional poker to political prognosticating is very much that of a restless and curious mind. And this, more than number-crunching, is where real forecasting prowess comes from.”

“Nate Silver serves as a sort of Zen master to American election-watchers… In the spirit of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s widely read “The Black Swan”, Mr. Silver asserts that humans are overconfident in their predictive abilities, that they struggle to think in probabilistic terms and build models that do not allow for uncertainty.”
The Economist

"Silver explores our attempts at forecasting stocks, storms, sports, and anything else not set in stone."

"The Signal and the Noise is essential reading in the era of Big Data that touches every business, every sports event, and every policymaker."

“Laser sharp. Surprisingly, statistics in Silver’s hands is not without some fun.”
Smithsonian Magazine
“A substantial, wide-ranging, and potentially important gauntlet of probabilistic thinking based on actual data thrown at the feet of a culture determined to sweep away silly liberal notions like ‘facts.’”
The Village Voice

“Silver shines a light on 600 years of human intelligence-gathering—from the advent of the printing press all the way through the Industrial Revolution and up to the current day—and he finds that it's been an inspiring climb. We've learned so much, and we still have so much left to learn.”

Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century (a century we thought we’d be a lot better at predicting than we actually are). Our political discourse is already better informed and more data-driven because of Nate’s influence. But here he shows us what he has always been able to see in the numbers—the heart and the ethical imperative of getting the quantitative questions right.  A wonderful read—totally engrossing.”
—Rachel Maddow, author of Drift
“Yogi Berra was right: ‘forecasting is hard, especially about the future.’ In this important book, Nate Silver explains why the performance of experts varies from prescient to useless and why we must plan for the unexpected. Must reading for anyone who cares about what might happen next.”
—Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge
Press and Praise

About the Author

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There was much noise about Nate Silver's power of "prediction" in the arena of U.S. political horse races. His own passionate mastery weighing data and opinion to form valuable probabilistic assessments from sports to politics indicated he himself was a signal. Grounded odds commentary in a sea of superficial punditry and knee jerk betting. The gift of this well written, easy to follow work is it adds to the education on the probabilistic nature of probably everything.

Interviewing leading lights in diverse fields, the book romps from climate to earthquakes to terrorism to markets. He draws from his own card-counting all-nighters in the early days of online poker to both chaos and complexity theory to illustrate the lessons. All good. The limited 3 stars given here is only from the point of view of a trader. This one area gets quickie sound bytes. It makes a few valid points about the strength of the prediction of the Efficient Market Hypothesis. The near impossibility of "beating the market" over the long term - the tangle of noise in the short term. As if hedging his bets, he alludes parenthetically that passing "inefficiencies" ARE likely being profitably exploited. He gestures an especially dismissive sneer toward "chartists", quips more confidently about index funds, and hurries on to change the subject.

Our loss. While there are authors who HAVE contributed with more depth/balance to probabilistic approaches to market theory and trading, so much more can be done in this area. Markets surely form one of the historically richest examples of noise versus signal. Of the roles of luck and skill, the interaction of myth and fact. The caldron of complexity that makes up a market and causes "agreed" prices to endlessly ebb and flow.
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Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

Making decisions based on an assessment of future outcomes is a natural and inescapable part of the human condition. Indeed, as Nate Silver points out, "prediction is indispensable to our lives. Every time we choose a route to work, decide whether to go on a second date, or set money aside for a rainy day, we are making a forecast about how the future will proceed--and how our plans will affect the odds for a favorable outcome" (loc. 285). And over and above these private decisions, prognosticating does, of course, bleed over into the public realm; as indeed whole industries from weather forecasting, to sports betting, to financial investing are built on the premise that predictions of future outcomes are not only possible, but can be made reliable. As Silver points out, though, there is a wide discrepancy across industries and also between individuals regarding just how accurate these predictions are. In his new book `The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't' Silver attempts to get to the bottom of all of this prediction-making to uncover what separates the accurate from the misguided.

In doing so, the author first takes us on a journey through financial crashes, political elections, baseball games, weather reports, earthquakes, disease epidemics, sports bets, chess matches, poker tables, and the good ol' American economy, as we explore what goes into a well-made prediction and its opposite.
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Format: Hardcover
I delayed reading this book, since it seemed far too popular and I was suspicious that it was overrated. In this case though, the hype is justified. This really is a very good book that gets into the nitty gritty of predictions vs forecasts and what makes some better than others. It is really quite easy to read as well, considering the subject matter. This book is more about ideas than putting them into practice, but the analysis here is quite sound, and entertaining to boot.
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Format: Hardcover
In this intriguing book, the author discusses the making of predictions/forecasts in a variety of different fields. He goes into a fair amount of detail regarding the approaches used and the degree of success and failure in each case. The topics considered include: the world economic crisis, elections, sports, weather forecasting, earthquakes, GDP, pandemics, chess, poker, stock market, climate change and terrorism - each of these is relegated to its own chapter. A fascinating chapter on Bayesian analysis is also included.

The author's writing style is very friendly, chatty, authoritative and quite engaging. Because of this, and the fact that no mathematical formulas/calculations are included in the main text (a formula is used in some of the tables on Bayesian analyses), this book should be accessible to a wide readership. In my case, I found that because of the great variety of subjects, I had more affinity for some, e.g., weather, earthquakes, pandemics, and much less than for others, e.g., economic crisis, GDP, stock market. I suspect that many readers may have their own preferences as well.

Amply illustrated with various charts, plots, tables and other figures, this book, or at the very least parts of it, should appeal to any reader interested in the making of predictions.
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