By Christopher B. Daly
What better way to learn about math for journalists than from one of our own?
Happily, the nonpareil Nate Silver of the NYTimes has a new book out in which he explains the math behind polls, predictions and other predicaments that reporters cover all the time and rarely understand in depth. The book seems to be very much of a piece with his work at the Times, on the blog “FiveThirtyEight” (named for the number of votes in the Electoral College).
His book is called The Signal and the Noise, and it weighs in at 534 pages! (I can only imagine what kind of arguments must have gone back and forth about that length with the folks at Penguin. I’m no mathematician, but I am a book author, and I can tell you that publishers are allergic to long non-fiction books.)
Here is a review of Signal and Noise from the Sunday Globe. And, just for fun, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about the engineering concept of “signal/noise ratio” — complete with mathematical formulas!)