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Celebrating the Pollsters: Bayes Won .. The era of Fisher and Pearson is over!

 

Simon LaPlace turned Thomas Bayes philosophy into hard, mathematical equations. The French mathematician used those equations to aim cannons, and proved that the universe began not with God but with the big bang.

Obama win vindicates Nate Silver

Despite some incredulous political pundits, the FiveThirtyEight statistician appears to have correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states.

Not so obvious to most of you will be that Silver is using a “new” kind of math .. Bayesian Statistics.  This is the same math that Alan Turing used to break the enigma code (good) and that Wall Street used to mess up the economy.  Like all scientific tools, Bayes works, but like all tools that tool user can be dangerous.

Bayes did his work during the era of the American Revolution.  LaPlace turned Bayes ideas into math.  That math, however, was opposed with religious furor by conventional statisticians, Pearson and Fisher. Their stands were much like that of Einstein who wanted to believe “that God does not play dice.”  God .. or at least quantum mechanics .. does play dice! Turing showed that this same sort of analysis of probability used by modern physics, could be used to explain things we all normally can see .. the complex, real world.

After WWII, Bayesian math was classified, but economists and social scientists discovered the value of this “new” math on their own.  In 1990, the government finally declassified Bayes.

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