Amid all the uncertainty and tilting fortunes of last year’s Presidential election, it seemed as though Nate Silver was the only one who could sort it out. Silver, the statistics guru (and possible witch) behind the New York Times‘ FiveThirtyEight political blog, rocketed to fame with his uncannily accurate prediction of the electoral outcome (and for giving Mitt Romney an eight percent chance of winning). But during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Q&A Tuesday afternoon, one user asked Silver to make a totally different — but equally pressing — prediction: Would gun control make America safer?
Here’s what Silver wrote in response:
“It’s a tricky problem, statistically. The issue is that while gun ownership rates could plausibly be a cause of fatal crimes and accidents, it can also be a reaction to it, i.e. people purchase guns because they feel unsafe. I’m not saying that the issue is intrinsically inscrutable. But it’s something that more requires a PhD-thesis-level treatment than a blog post to really add much insight, I think.”
Perhaps we found a glitch in Silver’s mainframe. His answer to the gun control question is about as certain as the fate of his unfinished Burrito Bracket, a not-so-scientific quest to find the best taqueria in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood — a calculation Silver has indicated will never be completed.
Besides Mexican food, sports talk was also well-represented during Silver’s two-hour question spree. That’s no surprise considering Silver worked as a baseball analyst before starting his FiveThirtyEight blog in 2008 (the New York Times acquired it in 2010). But the true highlight of Silver of the Reddit AMA came when user sharilynj asked, “What’s been the strangest experience you’ve had due to your sudden fame?”
When I was in Mexico last week, I got recognized at the top of Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, which I’m pretty sure really is a sign of the Apocalypse.
No word on whether his calculation tools can predict when that arrives.