Title: The Signal and the Noise
Author: Nate Silver
Fun Fact: There was public outcry in 2001 when the weather channel attempted to change the color representing rain from blue to green.
Review Summary: I loved the topic and was incredibly happy that the author was able to clearly present complex computational topics without oversimplifying.
I thought I should just get that geeky admission out of the way in the title since my love of this book is largely based on my love of data and the cool things we can do with it. Nate Silver is an awesome statistician best known for his model that has done a great job predicting election winners. In this book, he looks at a lot of incredibly interesting topics from public issues to sports and policy decisions to natural disasters while analyzing the common mistakes people make when making predictions about the future.
Oh my gosh, I enjoyed this book so much I almost don’t know where to start. It’s on a topic I love; using machine learning to make predictions or classifications has always fascinated me. It’s just so cool that we can get computers to make decisions too complex for us to make ourselves! And Nate Silver does an amazing job explaining this fascinating topic in an interesting and accessible way without talking down to the reader. He’s clearly passionate about the topic. He draws on a rich array of sources to make his points, not shying away from the use of large words or history lessons. And the examples are relevant to everyone (especially everyone in the US, but worldwide too). Combined with the graphs and the analogies, the examples make some pretty complex topics much easier to understand.
I loved how information rich the book was. I learned about many different topics and couldn’t stop scribbling down fun facts to use at the beginning of this review. The pop culture references and allusions to the author’s own life also made the book more engaging and made reading the book feel like having a casual but intelligent conversation with a friend. Obviously I’m a little biased in my opinion because of my prior interest in this topic, but I think anyone who loves non-fiction should definitely pick up this book.
Do you have any topics that you absolutely always love to read about? Topics you hate?