Nate Silver, on the first night of the World Series and two weeks from Election Day, spent the evening at the National Museum of Mathematics “Race to the Finish" gala.
It wasn’t a night off for the founder of FiveThirtyEight, which analyzes polls, stats and data on politics and sports, and has lately been branching into science and culture (with a burrito bracket).
"So far, everyone’s asked me about the Senate," Silver said in an interview about 40 minutes into the cocktail hour at Guastavino’s, an event space in Manhattan.
And what about the top of the ticket? “I’m a cautious guy," Silver said. “Hillary at 85 percent still means there’s a 15 percent chance for Trump."
Silver repeated the thought and those numbers in a question-and-answer session after dinner. As he mentioned the Democratic nominee’s name, there was applause; as he mentioned the Republican, much less applause. He asked if there were any voters for Gary Johnson, and heard a few claps.
Silver himself got the loudest cheers from an audience that included quant James Simons and Oppenheimer Funds Chief Executive Officer Art Steinmetz.
"Nate Silver is a hero to people in the data sciences, whatever field," said John Overdeck of Two Sigma Investments, a board member of the museum known as MoMath.
"Now it’s hip to be a nerd like me," David Mordecai, president of Risk Economics Ltd., said.
As for the World Series, Silver’s site has the Cleveland Indians with a 55 percent chance of becoming champions and the Chicago Cubs at 45 percent. (These odds were posted at 11:51 p.m. Tuesday night, after Cleveland had won Game 1, 6-0.) Silver praised both teams for building winners “from scratch," using stats along the way. Basketball players, quarterbacks and pitchers are “smart" about using statistics to improve, he said.
For the tribute to the honoree, hedge fund manager and singer-songwriter Peter Muller (who’s performing Thursday at the Metropolitan Room) sang “Silver Reigns" -- a lyrics-adapted cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain." A sample: You always "get the per-fect odds, on Five-Thirty-Eight."
The evening will hopefully increase the odds of MoMath finding the big donor who can help triple the museum’s size to 60,000 square feet -- enabling it to add classrooms, exhibitions and a lunch room for students to use during visits. It’s currently located in leased space on East 26th Street above Madison Square Park in Manhattan. A capital campaign will start in the next year, said Executive Director Cindy Lawrence, wearing a a custom-designed dress with beading in the form of a Fibonacci sequence.
In honor of Silver, guests raised a few hundred thousand dollars in a matter of minutes when they were asked to donate $538 multiplied by integer powers of 10.
Meanwhile, Silver urged everyone to not just follow his site, but act.
“Polls can be wrong," Silver said. “It’s not Russian roulette. People should still vote."
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