Happy Election Day everyone! I went out and voted this morning and hope you all will too. The past few weeks for many of us have been a veritable bombardment of political ads and polls. It seems like every day there are several new polls out, sometimes with conflicting results. It has made me think about how presidential elections have evolved into an incredibly calculated guessing game and even more about the statisticians behind this evolution.
I am continually amazed by the changing face of statistics. I can easily look back 30 years ago when I started recruiting for this industry and remember the stigma that these professionals carried. Statisticians were back room number crunchers whose brilliance was rarely recognized. You would be a god in the statistical community if you had a textbook taught at a university, let alone had a New York Times Bestseller on the bookshelves.
Needless to say, the script is very different today. Moneyball has reached pop culture status, Facebook and Twitter are providing scientists with information about public safety, and Nate Silver is now a household name.
If you haven’t heard of Silver yet, you’re in the minority. Author of the widely popular New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, Silver is showing the world that statistics is sexy. He rose to fame with his PECOTA system used to predict the performance of major league baseball players and over the years has turned to politics. (I’m sure you’ve all read about his much debated 2012 presidential picks!)
I for one could not be happier to have Silver in the spotlight. His new book The Signal and the Noise is on my holiday reading list and his refreshing insights are always a nice break from the same old commentary. Silver’s unique approach to statistics will be highlighted this week as part of the Karla Scherer Endowed Lecture Series for the University of Chicago. With the election winding down this week, he is sure to speak about a wide array of topics, including his first love: baseball.
Tickets are (not surprisingly) sold out, but I can only hope to see more of Silver and the new face of statistics in the coming months.