The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 10, 2012

Predicting presidents, storms and life by computer

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

 

"It's essentially solving equations that are too extensive to solve with pencil and paper," Weaver explained.

 

It all comes down to collecting data, crunching it and spitting out probabilities. It's evidence turned into numbers. It's math.

 

Experts believe it's the future.

 

Silver said what he did with the election was nothing compared with what meteorologists did with Sandy, which was a matter of "real life-and-death consequences."

 

The National Weather Service forecast an extremely rare due-west turn by the storm into southern New Jersey, he said. "It's astounding. That's a huge win for computer modeling."

 

Silver's bold predictions that Obama would win upset some political pundits who predicted a Romney victory, based on what they perceived as momentum, the enthusiasm of crowds, gut instinct and partisanship.

 

But Silver was right, besting his 2008 record of getting 49 of 50 states right for president.

 

"This is a victory for the stuff (computer modeling) in politics," he said Thursday in a telephone interview. "It doesn't mean we're going to solve world peace with a computer. It doesn't mean we're going to be able predict earthquakes ... but we can chip away at the margins."

 

One of the next fields Silver said he'd like to get into is education because he feels that all the data being generated "is not being used in the best way."

 

"I hope that people focus not on me personally, but what I'm trying to do," Silver said.

 

What he and his colleagues are trying to do is take a chaotic world and make sense of it, turn events into equations to be solved.

 

More than anything statistics are tools for understanding, like a wrench for an auto mechanic, said Bill James, the godfather of modern baseball statistics and a colleague of Silver's.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Congress racing to finish Congress races to finish veterans, highway bills

    July 31, 2014

  • Target New CEO [Duplicate] Target names Pepsi's Cornell as chairman, CEO MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Target has hired Pepsi executive Brian Cornell as its new chairman and CEO as it looks to recover from a huge data breach and troubles in Canada. Cornell replaces interim CEO John Mulligan, who is chief financial officer for the M

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brain wave monitoring is better gauge than using a focus group, study says To predict a large population’s likely response to something — a product, politician or policy — political consultants, marketing gurus and advertising execs have long favored the focus group. Ask a small segment of the target audience what it thinks

    July 31, 2014

  • Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail NEW YORK (AP) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation's staggering economy. A midnight Wednesd

    July 31, 2014

  • Exchange Bee Researcher [Duplicate] Bee researcher takes aim at central Minnesota park WAITE PARK — Crystal Boyd strained four bees, three flies and one leafhopper from a yellow pan trap, the third of 12 in a transect topping a granite outcrop in Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area.She popped everything into a labeled, zip-top plas

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos

  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014

  • Homeowner killed, another injured in Vegas crime spree LAS VEGAS — A horrific carjacking and home invasion spree ended with two people dead and a woman in critical condition. One victim, Richard Ramos, a 59-year-old father of four, “fought to his death” to protect his wife and children from their attack

    July 30, 2014

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-9 [Duplicate] UPDATE: Suspect in Minnesota officer killing in custody WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say a man wanted in the shooting death of an officer is in custody after being shot by police. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos says 39-year-old Brian Fitch Sr. got out of a minivan firing at

    July 30, 2014 4 Photos

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-3 [Duplicate] Minnesota officer killed making traffic stop WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop and authorities said they were searching for a suspect. Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, 47, was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulli

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possible suspect caught in Minnesota cop shooting WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A potential suspect in the shooting of a police officer in Minnesota has been captured. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the officer was killed. Television news footage showed the man being pulled from his vehicle Wednes

    July 30, 2014