This month is our special Data Issue, and so our Measurement Mavens are all people who have made data sexy and fun:
For us data geeks, Nate Silver is the Pope, Leo DiCaprio, and Superman all rolled into one. Before Nate Silver made headlines for using data analysis to accurately predict the 2008 election, data geeks mostly sat in back rooms and played with their numbers in obscurity. Then along came Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and his book “The Signal and the Noise,” which spawning a multitude of journalists who mine data to bring us more interesting news. The Five Thirty-Eight podcasts reflect a beautiful brutal honesty about data and statistics as well as charming self-deprecating humor. Whether they tackle sports, politics, or any other issue, Nate and his team always bring perspective to the data, a key requirement in this fake news world.
If you aren’t a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me addict like I am, you may just know Paula Poundstone as a stand-up comic. But when she’s on the NPR news/game show, she consistently challenges host Peter Sagal when he cites data from research that sounds ridiculous. She’s parlayed that shtick into a new podcast called Live from the Poundstone Institute on which she interviews the actual authors of some of the studies that she has questioned. Recent segments include a deep dive into the science of BS and the validity of the “Five Second Rule” for the safety of eating food dropped on the floor. If only more media outlets would follow her lead and take a skeptical look at data. Listen to On the Media’s rant on this topic.
Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West
Professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West teach students how to detect BS. Their University of Washington course “Calling BS in the Age of Big Data” (which is, in part, the inspiration for this, our Data Issue of The Measurement Advisor), was an immediate hit. Now universities all over the globe feature their own versions. You don’t have to attend UW to learn their techniques, just watch the videos here. We recommend April 12th Lecture 3: Correlation and Causation. ∞