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Alex Baer: The Devil's in the Data and Won't Get Out

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Devil numbersHe may risk becoming known as Dances with Data at some point.  For now, statistician, data-set analyst, and New York Times blogger Nate Silver has been all but inducted into the Pocket Protector Set's Hall of Fame, and been crowned a rock star for good measure.

Silver's achievements create an understandable draw for the populace:  call it the popularity of prediction wed to perfection.  How does one improve on 100% accuracy in calling the electoral nature of all 50 states, sometimes down to the same fraction of a finish?

Such is the power of crowd-wowing feats in creating a perfect score, so to say, in any area of human enterprise -- especially in dry-seeming areas having few memorably-high scores, and where the possibility or probability of perfection seems an impossible, unknowable dream.

Any acts of acing cryptic endeavors therefore become legend, and are entered into the League and Lore of Really Big Deals.  Such victories become talismans and touchstones for most people -- those who recognize their status as mere mortals and coin-flippers, and who contend with lifetime success rates that waver in the low to middle 50% range.

En route to his eye-opening results, Silver threw off the howls of many critics to his system: Those who were honestly unsure, all the way up (or down) to GOP operatives who accused him of all but being in league with the devil.


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