Books

Quick Reads: "The Signal and the Noise" by Nate Silver

| Tue Sep. 25, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

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

By Nate Silver

PENGUIN PRESS

Nate Silver, now the New York Times' resident stat-head, began earning his rep as something of a whiz by devising a probabilistic model that changed the way baseball franchises evaluate players. And during the 2008 election, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 states and all 36 Senate races. But his book isn't a victory lap, it's a confession: We're not as smart as we think we are. From the housing bubble to political science, the best and perhaps the brightest routinely blow the biggest calls because they can't separate the signal (truth) from the noise (distractions). We'll risk one prediction, though: Silver's book will be hard to put down.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.