Date: Dec 22, 2012 6:07 PM
Author: Richard Ulrich
Subject: book. Nate Silver, "The signal and the noise."

This is just a quick recommendation for a holiday gift or holiday 
reading - Nate Silver's "The signal and the noise." It is subtitled,
Why so many predictions fail and some of them don't.

Nate Silver was popular in this last election season because
he had the best record of prediction in 2012. And this year,
he hit all 50 states correctly, predicting Presidential outcome.
- His method is, mainly, to weight other people's polls by their
previous success. (But - this is not strongly spelled out - he also
makes subjective choices of whose polls to attend to.)

This is a pretty easy read, I hope, even for people who are
not mathematicians, and it does have a number of good
teaching examples. He goes into some detail on "over-fitting."

Silver made his first fortune in sports betting, and some fame
by improving on predictions for Who will make it among minor
league baseball players. And he added to his fortune, for
a while, playing on-line poker. These contribute to his examples.

He does spend some time explaining why you can't really
beat the stock market. (Transaction fees, on top of all else.)

The chapter on climate change includes a nice historical recap
of the science, some of which I was not famililar with. He
does endorse the usual conclusion.

A big reason "why predictions fail", in addition to technical
ones, is that the prognosticators tend to pick-and-choose
among the plentiful, new data, so that they ignore what
doesn't fit some previous model -- instead of learning from it.
In terms of the title -- they confuse signal and noise, erring in
both directions.

I particularly liked the introduction. The original "information
explosion" is the one that followed the invention of the
printing press in the 15th century. What it led to, before
the Industrial Revolution really took off 300 years later, was
a centuries of religious wars. - It took a long time for people
to sort out what they could agree on

Rich Ulrich