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Drunk Nate Silver and Zombie Math

November 13, 2012

Can Nate Silver’s example save political journalism?” by Martin Robbins in the Guardian:

Nate Silver is a one-man zombie apocalypse. Someone on the internet once wrote: “Zombies are scary because they are relentless and fearless. They don’t feel pain, they can’t be reasoned with. They never get tired. No matter how fast you run, in the end the plodding zombie will win the race.” Replace ‘zombies‘ with ‘Nate Silver’s numbers’ and you have a pretty accurate description of the last few months in the political bubble.


The embarrassing truth is that there was nothing remarkable about Nate Silver’s model, as the man himself freely admitted. … None of this was rocket science, yet to political commentators and their ‘conventional wisdom’ it was as alien as witchcraft.


Whether evidence-based punditry can have a lasting impact depends whether readers and viewers will ultimately choose to reject the misinformation, or the reality.

Recall also, Nate Silver is probably a witch and Sen. Schumer thinks dynamic scoring is a fairy tale and this is also a sort of issue related to zombie lies or Paul Krugman’s zombie ideas– which is to say there is a current climate of uncertainty about ‘what is a fact’ combined with poor understanding of predictive sciences, the limitations and powers of the field. As Arthur C. Clarke said, advanced science insufficiently understood is indistinguishable from magic.

And recall also the media leading up to Frankenstorm Sandy. That storm did turn out to be real and devastating for many people but in hindsight the media preparations were as absurd as they ever were. Moneyball hasn’t killed baseball yet, which is to say there is still plenty of spin on the ball.

Two new memes were born out of Nate’s successful prediction of the Obama storm surge: See “Battle of the Nate Silver Twitter Memes” by Esther Zuckerman in The Atlantic Wire and “‘Drunk Nate Silver’: The best tweets from the funniest post-election meme ” in This Week -:::

Nate Silver wasn’t born, the probability of his existence just increased #natesilverfacts
— weldon kennedy (@weldonwk)

Nate Silver can recite Pi. Backwards. #NateSilverFacts
— Jessica (@Smedette)

“Drunk Nate Silver waits 20 minutes for the G train, nods silently when it arrives, walks out of the station”
– Josh Fruhlinger (@jfruh)

Notice the similarity of Nate Silver facts to the historic Chuck Norris facts. One wonders if Nate Silver could beat Chuck Norris in a fight because he could predict the punches, though perhaps only if it’s drunk boxing. Note also the connection of intoxication to demons and zombies.


From → Academics

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