At the end of a long and exhausting night, two winners emerged from the election which eventually awarded Barack Obama a second term: Nate Silver and the data.
The New York Times writer and statistician correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on his Fivethirtyeight Blog, although many (mainly conservative) political pundits and statisticians initially dismissed him and claimed that his predictions leaned too far to the left.
“The pundits’ reaction to someone doing what they supposedly do best way better than they do it is hysterically funny,” Charlie Loyd, the creator of the site, told the Daily Dot.
Loyd, a professional nerd from Portland, Ore., originally came up with the idea after reading Twitter acquaintance Mark Coddington’s essay on Silver, where the Ph.D. student claimed that political journalists can’t stand Silver because “they don’t understand and don’t trust the means” of how Silver gets his knowledge. Loyd paired that with his idea that the election reminded him of witch-hunting. He even took a little inspiration from a Futurama episode where Bender the robot calls Fry a witch after he displays healing powers.
He joked about making the website on Twitter, and found the reaction to be enough validation to spend the money on the website.
“Is Nate Silver a Witch?” quickly spread Monday night as John Green and podcaster Mur Lafferty tweeted the site to their followers. Loyd updated the site as the night went on, eventually swapping his answer from “maybe” to “probably.” A few people criticized his use of the term “witch,” but Loyd is sticking to it, noting that Merlin called himself a “wytche” in the 13th-century Arthurian legend L’Morte d’Arthur.
The Internet widely approved of Silver throughout the night. Popular webcomic xkcd used Wednesday’s comic to point out that “numbers continue to be the best system for determining which of two things is larger.”
As his predictions became fact, the hashtag #natesilverfacts emerged, casting Silver as the Chuck Norris of math and probability (or perhaps casting Norris as the Nate Silver of fighting). The hashtag has been tweeted over 400 times in the past day, according to Topsy, a social media analytics site.
Photo via Randy Stewart/Flickr