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Predicting presidents, storms and life by computer
Number crunchers » Better and more accessible data and rapidly increasing computer power lead to better predictions.


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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.

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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.

James said in an email that contemplating what will happen in the future is something that "we all do every day, without really thinking about it. It is a necessary and relevant process. Thus, it is something that is worthy of our best analytical efforts."




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