Maybe the biggest winner of the 2012 presidential election, other than Barack Obama, was Nate Silver, the young statistician who runs the 538 blog at the New York Times. As you may recall (it was only a few weeks ago), Silver gave President Obama roughly an 80% – 90% chance of winning during the final days of October. The talking heads railed against Silver, calling him an “ideologue” and a “joke.” But, just as Silver accurately predicted the outcome of every Senate race during the 2008 election cycle, so did he pretty much nail the big race of 2012. He estimated Obama would receive 313 electoral votes, a touch below the 332 the president actually received. Silver was vindicated. It was time to take a victory lap … and sell a few books.
In late September, Silver shrewdly published a new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don’t. The book tour eventually, if not inevitably, brought him to Google, where the celebrity statistician fielded questions from data-loving Googlers for an hour. A grand old time was had by all.