Math whiz and baseball fan Nate Silver was mainly known for predicting outcomes in fantasy ballgames — until his technique hit a home run calling the outcome of the 2008 election primaries.

Why you should listen

In the 2008 election season's closing weeks, throngs of wonks and laypeople alike were glued to FiveThirtyEight.com, a habitforming political blog. Red and blue bar charts crowded the scrollbars as the pulse of exit polls crept along the site's latest projections. It seemed almost miraculous: In a year of acute turns of favor, the site's owner and mouthpiece, Nate Silver (who blogged anonymously as "Poblano" until outing himself on May 30, 2008, as a baseball numberhead), managed to predict the winners of every U.S. Senate contest -- and the general Presidential election.

Besides being just-damn-fascinating, Silver's analysis is a decidedly contrarian gauntlet thrown before an unrepentant, spectacle-driven media. The up-and-coming pundit, who cut his teeth forecasting the performance of Major League Baseball players, has a fairly direct explanation of why most projections fail: "Polls are cherry-picked based on their brand name or shock value rather than their track record of accuracy."

Silver's considerable smarts are already helping local campaigns build constituencies and strategize. Look for his two books from Penguin in 2009.

Nate Silver’s TED talk

Nate Silver on the TED Blog
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Culture

On our reading list: Nate Silver’s new book The Signal and the Noise

September 27, 2012

One might ask Nate Silver, the data whiz behind FiveThirtyEight.com, which shot to prominence after providing eerily accurate forecasts of the 2008 election, what makes for good predictions. His answer will come as a surprise. In his new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail But Some Don’t, Silver explains the […]

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The week in comments

May 3, 2009

This was an especially lively week on the TED commenting front, as our community tackled debates on swine flu, race and politics, and globalization. These amazing discussions can get a little heated — so we appreciate that there always seems to be a voice of reason that emerges from the group to soothe frazzled nerves […]

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Race and the city: An exclusive interview with Nate Silver

April 29, 2009

In his TEDTalk, blogger and statistics whiz Nate Silver explained how race may have affected the 2008 election. In this interview with the TEDBlog he further explores the relationships between urban spaces, race and President Obama. Here’s an excerpt: I see Obama as being our first urban president in a long time. His racial heritage […]

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Quotes from Nate Silver

Racism is predictable. It’s predicted by interaction or lack thereof with people unlike you, people of other races.
Nate Silver
TED2009 • 324K views Apr 2009
Informative, Persuasive
In Louisiana, about one in five white voters said, "Yes, one of the big reasons why I voted against Barack Obama is because he was an African-American."
Nate Silver
TED2009 • 324K views Apr 2009
Informative, Persuasive