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One Book Blog

Instead of Redface: From the Stage to the Supreme Court

May 15, 2018 | Isabella Raynal

One Book One Northwestern, the Department of Theater, and the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research co-sponsored a talk by Mary Kathryn Nagle.  Nagle spoke to a group of about twenty people about her hashtag #InsteadofRedface, which encourages American theaters to produce the works of Native playwrights instead of using red face.  She argues that red face creates offensive and dehumanizing representations of natives, and #InsteadofRedface seeks to create new narratives for Natives in US discourse. One example of such a play is Nagle’s own Sovereignty, which plays at Arena Stage; Sovereignty is her first major play at a “white theater.”

Declarations of Dependence: Impaired Veterans and Disability Pensions after the Revolutionary War

May 10, 2018 | Vinni Bhatia

On Thursday, May 10, Professor Ben Irvin of Indiana University visited Northwestern's Evanston campus to discuss disability pensions for veterans of the Revolutionary War. Littering his talk with specific anecdates of these veterans, Irvin told the history of how these pensions came to be, as well as the problems that came with implementing them. For example, given that the federal government was relatively small at the time, each state devised their own method for determining pensions, causing general strife and confusion. Also discussing how gender and socioeconomic conditions may have played a role in determining pension payments, Irvin claimed that some men who were qualified for pensions did not apply for them until deemed absolutely necessary, for fear of reliance on the state. Their need to be self-sufficient may have been utterly detrimental to their long-term wellbeing. Furthermore, Irvin hypothesized that many pension policies were perhaps set in ways that adversely affected African-American veterans, such as tying monetary compensation to the specific body-part the veteran lost. He also touched upon class disparities across pensions: rich veterans of a higher social status often received larger payments than similarly-injured poorer veterans. Ironically, but perhaps unsurprisingly, those who were the least likely to need the money were compensated much more generously. 

Religious Freedom in Arab States: Who is Free and What are They Free to Do

May 7, 2018 | AnnElise Hardy

On Monday, members of the Northwestern and Evanston Communities gathered at the Evanston Public Library to hear from Nathan Brown, a Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and the Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University as he spoke on the nature of religious freedom in the Arab States.  Brown spoke towards the differences between the US and Arab views of religious freedom and how the state is involved in protecting and promoting these freedoms. The talk discussed the difficulties of balancing the multiple forms of family law observed in the Arab world and how different countries have worked towards resolving these difficulties.  Members of the community asked many informed and spirited questions at the conclusions of the presentation. This event was co-sponsored by One Book One Northwestern, the Buffett Institute for Global Studies, the Department of Political Science and Middle East and North African Studies, and as part of a series of lectures concerning the Middle East and North Africa held at the Evanston Public Library.

Arts Circle - Arts on Equality

April 14, 2018 | Ryan Albelda

A day packed full of events from 10am to 6pm was attended by Northwestern, Evanston and other local community members. The event was localized around the arts circle area of Northwestern. The Block Museum, the Ryan Center for Musical Arts, the Wirtz Center and Norris were all venues for the various events.

The visual arts portion of the day featured the artist Hank Willis Thomas. He is currently featured at the Block Museum at Northwestern. His work featured in the museum focuses the issues in the graphic deign art of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Thomas removes the branding from the images and uses provocative titles to show the problematic nature of advertising. Thomas had a conversation later in the day with associate professor Huey Copland from the Art History department here at Northwestern.

The written arts part of the day featured serval authors. Northwestern’s creative writing director Rachel Jamison Webster spoke with author Jacqueline Battrlora. They discussed Battalora’s novel Birth of a White Nation. A novel that touched on race based inequality. Northwestern alumna YZ Chin reads from her book Though I Get Home with faculty member Michelle Huang.

Theater was featured at the festival through some of the work of Northwestern’s Kaplan program artist in residence: Rohina Malik. Maliks play Keeping Faith: Sister Stories, is about her own journey and that of Susan Stone and Kim Shultz. The performance was held in the Witz Center for the Performing Arts. In the performance Lucia Thomas played various musical instruments.

Music was another artistic discipline featured. Caroline Shaw’s To the Hands piece was performed. Her work expresses immigration and charity. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s piece was also performed; this work highlights themes of suffering through supplication. The third work that was performed was one composed by Alex Berko. These pieces were performed by the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Enesmble, conducted by Grammy winning conductor Donald Nelly, and featured members of the Haymarket Opera Orchestra and Ensemble Dal Niente.

Dance was also featured during the event. Choreographers Victor Alexander and Michael Rodriguez Cinta present a dance that focuses on the human experience that allows us to connect to others. Hedwig Dance performs “Parting Shadows” a quartet choreographed by Alexander and inspired by Plato. The Cinta’s choreography was performed by him and Jordan Reinward in a piece “Give and Take.”

In total the event took about 6 months to plan together. The Block museum has Hank Willis Thomas’s work on display until August 5th 2018.


April 12, 2018 | Srijit Paul

On a Thursday Evening at the beautiful Segal Visitor Center, students, faculty and the public gathered together for an evening of storytelling, laughs, and food. TAKE A STAND was a recreation of the widely popular artistic event called “The Moth”, which celebrates the art of storytelling. Eight randomly chosen people were called up to tell short stories, with nothing but a mike in hand. What followed were an amazing set of stories that spanned from a wonderful nurse to the spontaneous formation of a scholarship for high school students. These stories furthered the restoration of the lost art of storytelling while providing an enjoyable time for all the attendees. 

Visiting Stateville

April 11, 2018 | Yajaira Gallegos

“[The Declaration of Independence] is an ugly document that was written beautifully, said Stateville Correctional Center inmate, Neal-Bey, on Wednesday, April 11th during an event organized between One Book and Philosophy Professor Jennifer Lackey.

Professor Lackey teaches Northwestern courses at Stateville and helped organize this event with One Book because of the themes of the book and the sentiment that many of the inmates feel: do questions of equality and freedom include us?

About sixty inmates and fifteen Northwestern faculty members, and graduate and undergraduate students came together and participated in a panel and small group breakout session where they all worked to unpack the themes of Danielle Allen’s “Our Declaration.” There existed a general dislike for the novel, and many concerns regarding Allen’s claim that the Declaration belongs to everyone were brought up. Some inmates expressed that they had hope and felt that the Declaration did in fact belong to them and that it was their responsibility to claim the Declaration and the rights ensured in it for themselves. Others said that the Declaration could have been amended to more explicitly include women, people of color, and poor folks in narratives about freedom and equality. And some even said that they should just get rid of the Declaration altogether and create a new document that includes them, and all voices, in the conversation on freedom and equality.

The conversations held at Stateville that Wednesday morning were thought-provoking, interesting, and necessary for analyzing the role the Declaration plays in people’s lives. This event was a test-run for One Book programming at Stateville, but having a similar event in the future based on new One Book selections would be valuable.

Opening of Ricardo Lewis: (In)Visible Men

February 16, 2018 | Melissa Calica

Dittmar Gallery of Norris University Center, curated by Debra Blade, hosted a reception for the opening of (In)visible Men by Ricardo Lewis on Friday, February 16 at 5-7pm. Approximately fifty attendees snacked on sesame chicken tenders, spanakopita, fruit and cheese platters, orange blossom punch, and brownies while chatting with the artist about his experience. The exhibit, consisting of thirteen life-size paintings with black men against a single color background and a first name, is purposely left without much detail to leave the consumer without visual cues to judge the men. Lewis, who is originally from North Carolina, talked about his students at Illinois State University and his inspiration for the art. Additionally, the gallery held a center rug of flowers and chairs, including OBON calendars and Dittmar notepads. Postcards with the picture of Robert II are available at the sign-in notebook. The exhibit will remain open until March 22.

Race and the Founding of the United States

February 16, 2018 | Melissa Calica

On Friday, February 16 at 12:30pm in collaboration with the Department of History and the Kreeger Wolf Endowment in Weinberg College, OBON hosted a panel in Harris Hall on Race and the Founding of the United States. Moderated by History Professor Leslie Harris before an audience of over fifty, Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed talked about her books "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family" and "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination" while Rutgers Professor Erica Armstrong Dunbar talked about her book "Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge." Both women discussed the hardships of rewriting the narrative about lauded figures in United States history, and how they approached their research. Before the panel Potbelly's sandwiches were served, and after the panel the authors stayed behind to sign books that OBON sold through the Norris Bookstore.

Continuing and Professional Education in Service of Democracy

February 15, 2018 | Isabella Raynal

Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies co-sponsored a panel with Thomas F. Gibbons (Dean of the School of Professional Studies), Peter Kaye (Assistant Dean, Undergraduate and Post-baccalaureate Programs), and Leslie Fischer (Lecturer, The Cook Family Writing Program and the School of Professional Studies) on Continuing and Professional Education in Service of Democracy.  Current students, Elizabeth and Jaclyn, also spoke about their experiences in the School of Professional Studies.  About 20 people attended this one-hour online discussion that was open to the public.  There is a recorded version of this panel.

The panelists discussed the relationship between democracy and continuing education.  They discussed the history of this topic, such as when Harvard’s extension school classes cost only $5 a credit as to not exceed the cost of wheat.  The speakers identified access to education as perhaps the main goal of promoting continuing education in a democratic context.  One major change in the past 20-30 years has been technology, which allows students to participate in “distance learning” because they are not restricted by geography.  Panelists also stressed the importance of experimentation in finding innovative and democratic solutions to help students go back to school while balancing work and family obligations.

The Declaration as a Source of Law

February 6, 2018 | Melissa Calica

At the Chicago campus in Rubloff Auditorium at the NU Pritzker School of Law, One Book hosted a discussion between professors Andrew Koppelman and Steven Calabresi regarding Danielle Allen's claims of American equality as established by the Declaration of Independence. Potbelly's was served to 49 participants as each professor gave his statement regarding the clause that all men are created equal, referring to other documents and cases in American history. Both responded to the other's arguments, then audience members asked questions, such as interpretations of the thirteenth amendment in response to abortion laws. Professor Calabresi also shared printouts with sections of the Declaration and states' Declaration of Rights. 

Vinegar Tom

February 4, 2018 | Melissa Calica

On Sunday, February 4 at 2pm, the One Book staff and volunteers attended a production of Vinegar Tom at the Virginia Wadsworth Theatre, about a witch hunt against seventeenth century women interspersed with twentieth century cabaret-style songs. Written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Lee Hannah Conrads, the play shows how marginalized women were often labelled witches for little reason other than their non-conformity to the narrow social categories of the patriarchy. Using a single set with an on-stage band, the show seamlessly blended both centuries' social issues, reflected in the quick changes of the women's costumes. 

Reporting Truth: Jane Meyer and Peter Slevin

January 29, 2018 | AnnElise Hardy

Speaking to a full McCormick Tribune Center Forum, Jane Mayer and Peter Slevin spoke to members of the Northwestern community and the general public about how reporting the truth has evolved in the Trump Era.  Mayer drew on her career of covering presidents since the Reagan Administration to explain what’s so different about this administration and the current state of news reporting.  Sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated MArketing, Communications and the Kaplan Humanities Institute, the event followed the conversation between Mayer and Slevin as they discussed Donald Trump and his dipole relationship with the media. They also spoke about the Koch Brothers’ political machine and how they inadvertently led to the rise of Trump’s presidency.  Mayer though, spoke with hope and a belief that the institutions under attack, (the FBI, reporting, and the truth) will hold.  The response to the “alternative facts” is to take the time to find the truth and that an appetite for the long version.

MLK Observance: Keynote with Charles Blow

January 25, 2018 | Vinni Bhatia

On Thursday, January 25th, Charles Blow spoke on campus as a part of the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Addressing a packed Ryan Auditorium, Blow discussed topics such as poverty and race, connecting them both to King's life as well as contemporary times. He argued that while King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech is perhaps what he's most well-known for, his "The Other America" speech represented the true heart of his movement.

For example, Blow stated that even "Northern and Western" liberal cities have racists and are to blame for the disappearance of young, black men who were taken from there families to go to prison. These cities, dubbed "civil rights battlegrounds," perpetuate economic inequality by exploiting these young men.
Blow was introduced by Nehaarika Mulukutla, ASG President, and the evening concluded with Reverend Jackie Marquez giving the benediction.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

January 25, 2018 | Isabella Raynal

On Thursday, January 25, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky spoke at the Buffet Institute on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. In attendance were members of Northwestern’s Political Union - the club that hosted the event - as well as other students and a couple of community members & Schakowsky supporters. Schakowsky first entered politics about fifty years ago when she formed “National Consumers United” with other North Shore housewives to do grocery store inspections. These inspections were because, in the 1970s, there were no dates on any food items, meaning nobody knew how old they were. Representative Schakowsky has been the Congresswoman for the 9th district for two decades and first won the primary election 20 years ago on March 17th.

The structure of the one-hour event was an about 10-15 minute talk by Schakowsky followed by a Q&A period. Schakowsky began her talk by declaring “I’m a progressive Democrat.” She spoke about current issues such as DREAMers and the government shutdown. She shared that she makes economics decision based off whether or not it increases or decreases US income inequality, which she sees as our most important domestic issue. Schakowsky says she believes, “A lot of people who voted for Donald Trump had legitimate grievances about the economy” and that she does not believe most Trump supporters are racist.

During the Q&A period Representative Schakowsky was asked about the upcoming Gubernatorial Election, to which she responded that she has not endorsed any Democratic candidate, that she respects all of the Democratic candidates, and that after the primaries she will work with whomever the Democratic nominee is to defeat incumbent Bruce Rauner. She also stated that she would consider agreeing to a compromise for DREAMers that would include funding for the border wall. Other topics of discussion included the Democrats winning back seats, party polarization, voting accessibility, universal healthcare, and jobs.


Inside Chicago & Lift Ev'ry Voice

January 19, 2018 | Melissa Calica

As part of the celebration of Black History Month, Vertigo Productions hosted a series of events during the weekend of January 19-20. Two plays were performed at Shanley Pavilion focusing on black history, "Afrocensored" by Amira Danan and "Chains on Chocolate" by Elliot Sagay. For "Inside Chicago" at Norris University Center, the audience watched three AJ+ videos titled "The Racist History of Chicago's Housing Policies" and "Chicago's South Side Isn't Waiting to be Saved". Emcee Kori Alston moderated a panel with Andre "Add-2" Daniels,  rapper and founder of nonprofit Haven Studio, and Maria Hadden, candidate for 49th Ward Alderwoman. Following a reception, McCormick Auditorium housed the "Lift Every Voice" program, an open mic exclusively for black students to share art and music. The audience saw a variety of topics covered, such as multiraciality and sexuality, and the night ended with Northwestern Community Ensemble's rendition of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."

15th Annual NUCHR Presents: Carmen Perez

January 13, 2018 | Melissa Calica

On Saturday, January 13 in Harris Hall, the 15th Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights had their closing keynote by Carmen Perez, best known as a National Co-Chair for the 2017 Women's March on Washington. She is also Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice and a large advocate for civil rights issues, and during her talk at Northwestern University she shared her personal motivations for activism, advice for younger students looking to be involved, and what she learned from helping to plan the march last year. She was open and honest about shortcomings and successes, finding mentorship, and hardships of living far from family, and closed the session with audience members holding hands to chant and shout for liberation.

Do You Remember? Deconstructing Memory Within Human Rights

January 11, 2018 | Srijit Paul

On a Thursday night in a crowded Auditorium in Harris Hall, Paul Rusesabagina delivered the keynote for the 15th annual Northwestern University Community for Human Rights conference. Rusesabagina is best know for his heroic acts during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. His bravery is reenacted in the Oscar Award nominated film, Hotel Rwanda. Throughout the talk, Rusesabagina emphasized the importance of the spoken word in the face of inhumane violent act and how they served to save not only him but more than a thousand refugees. 

An Evening with Jessica Williams

November 12, 2017 | Vinni Bhatia

On Sunday, November 12, Jessica Williams gave a talk in Cahn Auditorium. Speaking to about 600 students, Williams reflected on her career as a comedian and her life growing up as an African American woman.  Joking about her white boyfriend, her hair, and her experience playing The Sims, Williams, who was a former correspondent on The Daily Show, stated that she was trying to get more personal with the audience.  This event was sponsored by A&O Productions, One Book One Northwestern, College Feminists, and Multicultural Filmmakers Perspective. 

The Republic of Letters

November 9, 2017 | Isabella Raynal

This Thursday, November 9, about 65 people gathered in Harris to attend this talk hosted by the Center for Historical Studies. Lunch was served at noon, with options ranging from a fresh arugula, fennel, and avocado salad to an eccentric looking apple upside down cake.

At 12:30pm, Harvard Professor Jane Kamensky began her talk on John Singleton Copley by saying this will be one of her last talks on this revolutionary artist, as she has focused on his work for a long time. The talk focused on Boston 1738-1744 and raised the question about how can anyone or anywhere be provincial in our modern cosmopolitan world. She also characterized our current world as barbaric - most likely a dig at the current political climate - which elicited laughs from the audience.

Her discussion included references to the history of slavery, globalization, the history of science (especially botany), and the borderless, international, and constantly changing culture of letters. She showed some of Copley’s paintings, which included many of women. His faces were always the best part, outperforming the faces of other painters of his time. A slow and realistic painter, it is said Copley once took 90 hours to paint one woman’s pair of hands. One of his paintings took 9 years. He originally got into painting through his stepfather Peter Pelham, who had art materials such as paint brushes, engraving tools, and a printing press in the house, most to all of which were European imported and globally sourced. Copley took up these tools to create his own art once he had to help his family’s financial situation.

At 1:20pm, Kamensky took questions from her audience. Kamensky discussed the fantastical elements of Copley’s work, such as the creative garb the women in his paintings dressed in. She expressed her disagreement to the criticism that Copley’s work got worse as he traveled by labeling it as “nationalism, pure and simple.” She also discussed American art in general, saying that since “We are a nation of people and faces” we prefer portraits and therefore devalue other types of art such as that of landscapes. Kamensky once again resurfaced her criticism of today’s society, arguing that “Culture is very poor at accounting for power.” To support this statement, she encouraged the audience to “look where we are now.” She also referenced problems in the past such as slavery, which takes up about 1/6 of her book.

After the event concluded, there was an informal event with graduate students at 2:00pm.

Nations within a Nation

November 2, 2017 | Melissa Calica

On Thursday November 2, Dittmar Gallery and One Book hosted an annual Dittmar Dinner, involving a guest lecture and conversation over dinner. Students, faculty, and community members came together to hear from Doug Kiehl, Assistant Professor of History, about “Nation’s Within a Nation: American Independence, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Ideas of Equality.”

He talked about the apparent economic prosperity of the Oneida nation that belies the displacement from New York territory. The United States was founded on the idea of self-sovereignty, yet to do so meant taking land away from indigenous people. Constitutional precedent gives American governments power to keep Native Americans off the land, despite continuous legal battles over treaties and various agreements.

I Can't Breathe: Matt Taibbi

October 28, 2017 | Melissa Calica

On Saturday October 28 at 5pm in Cahn Auditorium, journalist Matt Taibbi gave a talk and book signing as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Humanities Program, the event focused on Taibbi’s book I Can’t Breathe, documenting the events leading up to Eric Garner’s death by New York City police and the subsequent aftermath.

Moderator and Chicago Police Board member Lori Lightfoot guided discussion around Garner’s involvement with untaxed cigarettes, former NY Police Commissioner Bill Bratt’s implementation of Broken Windows theory, and Garner’s legacy. She also pressed Taibbi to explain his own appearance in news media for perceived mysogynist work in Moscow, as well as the inequality of police treatment toward citizens of color. Seminary Co-Op sold books by the author. This talk was part of CHF’s Festival Fallfest/17: BELIEF.

Democratic Judgment in an Age of "Alternative Facts"

October 23, 2017 | Ryan Albelda

In the lecture Democratic Judgment in an Age of "Alternative Facts”, both Linda Zerilli and Robert Hariman both spoke. Zerilli is a professor at University of Chicago she has taken part in the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and is a professor of political science. Hariman is a Northwestern professor of Rhetoric and Public Culture in the Department of Communication Studies.

Professor Zerilli gave a solution to helping deal with the age of "alternative facts." Zerilli mentioned how perspective is key in understanding what is going on in the world around us. This is like the One Book in the sense that perspective is key in the writing on the declaration. One challenge that we all face today is that there are so many perspectives with agendas of what is truth and facts to deliver.

The event was part of the TRUTH dialog series. This is a partnership with departments and programs across Northwestern, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities will hold a year-long series of conversations around the theme of TRUTH.

The lecture was sponsored by Political Theory Colloquium of the Department of Political Science and Kaplan Humanities Institute. 

Danielle Allen Gives One Book Keynote

October 19, 2017 | Vinni Bhatia

Danielle Allen, author of this year's One Book, gave the official One Book Keynote on Thursday, October 19 in Ryan Auditorium. Speaking in conversation with Gerry Cadava, an Associate Professor of History and the One Book Faculty Chair, Allen covered a myriad of topics, including discussing the modern relevance of the Declaration of Independence, as well as covering some of the history behind the writing and signing of the Declaration. 

Allen also spoke at length about her inspiration for writing the book - her night class composed of adult students at the University of Chicago. She claimed she only assigned the Declaration as a reading item because it was so short: 1337 words. 15 years later, and those discussions helped lead to Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.

Carrie Mae Weems: Ritual and Revolution

October 13, 2017 | Isabella Raynal

The discussion about Carrie Mae Weems’ Ritual and Revolution was the closing event for the week-long Black Arts Initiative Conference with the themes of “Temporality and Territories.” 5th year PhD candidate LaCharles Ward moderated a panel of three professors: Michael Hanchard from the University of Pennsylvania, Gina Athena Ulysse from Wesleyan University, and Romi Crawford from the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

Hanchard discussed his perspective on the piece as an African American who studies themes such as the time of economics, violence, political movements, and revolutions of the 20th century. He said the piece invoked in him several references such as the Chilean socialist revolution and author Pablo Neruda. He is thankful to Weems for embracing several temporalities as her own.

Ulysse told us about how in 2014 she saw Weems carrying a bag with the quote “I am large; I contain multitudes.” This theme appears in Weems’ work as the black woman being in the center of the piece, taking up space with her presence, similar to the Haitian quote, “Women are the center pillars. She referenced the continuation of present issues, such as the lack of water in Flint and the Greek economy, while stressing the conflict in responding to oppression, because it brings the threat of black people only being seen in opposition to whiteness.

Crawford laments that, “Black people are not listened to as they should be for the things that they know.” Her talk encouraged people to listen, arguing that silence can be revolutionary. She also talked about temporality in that the history of black oppression is both past and present.

The talk included with a period of Q&A where audience members, some of which had been attending events throughout the week, could ask for further interpretations and insights.


October 11, 2017 | Vinni Bhatia

On Wednesday, October 11, Northwestern first-year and transfer students got an opportunity to go see Hamilton: An American Musical. Even though we were all very excited and had extremely high expectations, everybody was blown away by how amazing the musical was.

While taking 1000 students down to Chicago simultaneously sounds like an arduous task, the process went relatively smoothly. Everybody was in high spirits, and thankfully we were all able to get there with little fuss. Taking up a significant portion of the theater, students made sure their appreciation was known. Cheers and applause could be heard throughout the musical, and after it was over, the entire audience gave all the performers a standing ovation. After talking with many of the students following the musical, many said it was going to remain one of their most memorable moments at Northwestern.

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided

October 3, 2017 | Srijit Paul

On a Tuesday night in Ryan Auditorium, Orange is the New Black actress and author of In the Country We Love, Diane Guerrero addressed an audience of 300 people in Ryan Auditorium about her experience with the US immigration system; Latinx heritage, and various issues facing the US today.

Guerrero, an advocate for immigration reform called attention to deportations and the separation of families. With her witty humor, Guerrero delved into her personal struggles growing up, which included the deportation of her family as well as succeeding in Hollywood.

Samantha Power Visits Northwestern

October 2, 2017 | Vinni Bhatia

On Monday, October 2, Samantha Power visited Northwestern to participate in a conversation with Professor Wendy Pearlman. Power, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, talked at length about a variety of her experiences, including her time as a journalist in Yugoslavia and her involvement in the US Presidential Election in 2008. Speaking to a packed room of students and faculty alike, Power answered Professor Pearlman's questions captivatingly, often facing tough questions about her time as the UN Ambassador under the Obama administration.

Afterwards, students in the audience were able to ask her questions, which helped facilitate the discussion towards topics that Northwestern students were interested in. Some of these topics included advice to student journalists, lessons she learned from her perceived greatest failure, and her views on the current presidential administration. She ended the evening by talking at length about what she considered a great accomplishment under the Obama administration - the handling of the Ebola crisis that occured in 2014 within the United States.

You Wanna Claim "I'm Not Throwing Away MY SHOT"

October 2, 2017 | Melissa Calica

On Monday, October 2 at 650 Lincoln, Director of Residential Services Nancy Anderson hosted a discussion of the lyrics in Hamilton: The Musical at an event called You Wanna Claim "I'm Not Throwing Away MY SHOT!" Professors Caitlin Fitz of the History Department and John Haas of the Theatre Department gave their insights into the show by analyzing the songs "The Schuyler Sisters," "My Shot," "Alexander Hamilton," and "You'll Be Back." Both professors stressed that despite the show's tremendous reach and unusual casting, the actual content is very traditionalist. Professor Haas compared the Schuyler sisters to Destiny's Child or other strong girl pop groups, and the soldier songs to the musical Les Miserables' battle cry songs. Even rap and hip-hop music has been featured in musical theatre for years. Professor Fitz pointed to the current historical opinion that Hamilton had a strong amorous relationship with John Laurens, yet Lin-Manuel Miranda did not write Hamilton as effeminate. Aaron and Theodosia Burr perhaps had the most progressive ideals, yet Angelica Schuyler was depicted as the feminist. Minorities such as Native Americans were actually more likely to support the Loyalists, so Prof. Haas deems casting choices for the Patriots quite interesting. Overall, Hamilton is revolutionary for its widespread influence and popularity, but the show itself is simply standing on the shoulders of those before it.

Northwestern Student Affairs also covered this event, check it out here!

"The Room Where it Happens"

September 27, 2017 | Meredith Belloni

On September 27, new students gathered in the basement of Shepard Hall to discuss one question — why should we want to be in the room where it happens? Professors Melissa Foster of the musical theatre department and Caitlin Fitz of the history department set out to answer that question through a review of some of the lyrics, staging, historical, and theatrical mechanics of Hamilton. When Professor Foster asked if anyone had seen the show before, surprisingly enough, at least a dozen hands shot up. Everyone said they’d heard at least some of the music from the show before. Students were ready and excited to engage in conversation about the musical.

The evening consisted of listening to clips of songs from the show and taking a closer look at some of the lyrics and at some of the themes each song brings up. We were asked to consider what this version of America’s past says about America’s present— How has it changed?  What hasn’t changed?  Whose voices are we hearing here?

From there, conversations about racial equality, feminism, and the American dream abounded. A striking theme that Professor Fitz brought up is how the show is problematic as a history largely due to its erasure and inaccuracies but incredible and amazing as art for its originality, relatability, and infectious music. The professors gave the students a lot to keep an eye out for when they see the show - from similarities between the Schuyler Sisters and Destiny’s Child to how the lighting can change the tone of a scene. Both professors were very enthusiastic about the show, and that enthusiasm transferred to the students who left the talk buzzing about the upcoming excursion.

One Book Update

August 22, 2017 | Geraldo Cadava

 As fall quarter approaches, Nancy Cunniff and I are hard at work on this year’s calendar of events. If things shape up as we think they will, there’s good reason to be excited. Not only will all first-year students see Hamilton on October 4 or October 11. Not only will author Danielle Allen be on campus on October 19 for talks on our Chicago and Evanston campuses. We’re also co-sponsoring events with Native American and Indigenous Studies, the Center for Legal Studies, the History Department, the Spanish & Portuguese Department, the Program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, the School for Professional Studies, and so much more. Moreover, we’re beyond excited to partner with Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications to produce a series of podcasts on the topic of equality and inequality at Northwestern and beyond.

 The wide range of events we’ve got planned is a testament to the richness of Allen’s book. What do the words of the Declaration of Independence mean to us today? What have they meant over the 240 year period since they were written? Do we still “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”? Is this still a bedrock truth? How did the participants at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 riff on this famous line when they asserted, that “all men and women are created equal”? How did Abraham Lincoln elevate the significance of the Declaration of Independence as a foundational document when he began his famous Gettysburg Address with the sentence, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, more than 100 nations issued their own declarations of independence. How were these other declarations—from Venezuela to Vietnam—influenced by the U.S. Declaration? This year we’ll answer these questions and more … Stay tuned!! Keep visiting our website to learn more about what we’re planning. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Cents and Sensibility

May 25, 2017 | Daniel Weiss

This Monday, President Morty Schapiro and Economics Professor Saul Morson came to Harris Hall to talk about their new book, Cents and Sensibility. Their book explores the overlap between economics and the humanities, where each thrives and struggles, and where each field can learn from the other.

Schapiro tackled the economic side. Calling himself a “proud economist” and speaking from decades of teaching experience, he noted the value of models in predictions. If an economist were to have access to the right data and know the right variables to measure, then the standard, objective approach to policy-making used by economists would be easy to justify, highly accurate, and well-received by the public. But often, there are relevant factors that are neither apparent nor easily quantifiable. It is here that the humanities should play a role. Economic models, considered without a healthy amount of moral reasoning, have the ability to cause harm to the people they are designed to help. One example cited during the discussion was a campaign by the World Health Organization against river blindness in Africa. Economic analysis opposed funding prevention efforts, since the target population did not have the potential to be productive workers. But the alternative was to let these people suffer—a policy that seemed quite immoral. Morality won, and according to Schapiro, the campaign was the WHO’s “most successful.”

From the humanities, it has become clear that the best stories often have the best narratives. Morson in particular praised Jane Austen, calling her a “pioneer” for her writing style and sense of purpose. Recognizing the importance of narratives can empower economists to reach a more receptive audience.

Economics Professor Mark Witte, who led the discussion, suggested that the authors worked to create a narrative that would be accepted by professionals in economics and the humanities. Professor Morson was quick to respond, “I don’t think people in the humanities accept it.” And Schapiro added, “I don’t think economists accept it either.” But this does not concern the authors since, even though some people in Morson’s field were “livid” when they read it, the intended audience is “smart, literate people” in any discipline. Schapiro and Morson are going on a book tour, and hope that their book will encourage people to embrace a multidisciplinary approach whenever possible.

Chris Moore dishes on all things advanced stats and baseball

May 12, 2017 | Ryan Albelda

In front of around 70 people on Tuesday night in the Segal Visitors Center, Chris Moore, the director of research and development for the Chicago Cubs,  spoke about big data and how it's used in baseball. Moore described, among other things, how for every game, his R+D team compiles a report that is given to the players as well as Joe Madden, the Cubs manager.

All MLB teams now use data to help with their decision-making, a shift in the sport that has quickly developed in the 21st century. The data has increased greatly due to features such as StatCast that displays information such as pitch speed, hit direction and other information. Different teams place a different emphasis on the data and the frequency in which it is used. Moore says that the limiting factor for having more data and information is man-hours for analysts, of which he admitted that there's simply more work to do than the Cubs could possibly complete.

New York Times' Amanda Cox talks data visualization and journalism and how they intersect

May 4, 2017 | Josh Burton

The New York Times is known as "the Gray Lady" for its iconic newspaper, but as the Times' Amanda Cox relayed to a crowd of around 100 people in Harris Hall 107 on Wednesday night, journalism is evolving past just the written word.

Cox heads the paper's The Upshot vertical, which uses data, charts, videos and other visualization methods to produce interactive news graphics for both the newspaper and website. She spoke about how data journalism is more than just a nice-looking image or assortment of data; it requires thinking about the reader and how their experience with the data might be affected by different displays.

Tom Skilling, Don Wuebbles and Karen Weigert discuss the varied implications of climate change

April 24, 2017 | Josh Burton

Human-caused climate change is undoubtedly affecting the world, but the impacts of it are on a scope that encompasses various disciplines. In a interesting panel discussion -- which followed short presentations -- last Thursday at the Jacobs Center, WGN-TV chief meteorologist Tom Skilling (weather), University of Illinois Professor Don Wuebbles (climate science) and Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Karen Weigert (policy) talked about climate change in relation to their field of expertise.

A crowd of around 75 in Leverone Auditorium listened in as each expert presented about their field and how it relates to climate change. The overarching theme: any course of action that can be taken to mitigate climate change and its effects must be undergone.

NUpredicts: Lacrosse

April 17, 2017 | Josh Burton

Our final NUpredicts event of the school year is now over, but oh what a finale it was! The Wildcats beat No. 20 Duke 12-10 in a great game at Martin Stadium on Saturday afternoon in front of over 1,200 fans. While Northwestern won the game on the field, we had our own set of winners as five predictors stood out among the rest of the 108 people who played.

The winners' names are below, and we thank everyone else for playing and showing the lacrosse team some support in a big win


Blake Kolesa


Grace Alger


Olivia Shay


Henry Chopp


Hannah Lee

Predicting sports: Easier said than done

April 8, 2017 | Josh Burton

Is it actually possible to know what's going to happen in a baseball or football game before it happens? The obvious answer is no, but when you dig into the data -- as noted by Professor Thomas Severini in the final Spotlight Series talk of the year -- it's clear some prediction methods are better than others at determining what could happen in a particular season.

Severini, a professor in the Statistics department who has written multiple books on sports and stats, gave an intriguing talk about the different statistical methodologies that can be used to see how well a MLB player or NFL team is going to do in a particular upcoming season. Past performance is often a better predictor for future success than even so-called "expert" picks featured on sports news websites or TV segments, but it's far from the only variable needed in the equation.

NUpredicts: Baseball

April 3, 2017 | Josh Burton

Another NUpredicts event has come and gone, and while Northwestern lost the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against Air Force at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, fun was had by all predictors. The Wildcats even did the unpredictable in the day's second game, comong back from a 6-0 deficit to win 7-6.

Five predictors stood out among the 107 people who played this iteration of NUpredicts. Thanks to everyone for participating!


Henry Hayashi Chopp


Daniel Robert Weiss


Rachelle D. Price


Andrew Michael Brown


Joshua Adam Burton

Superstorms, Climate Change and the Future of Cities

March 31, 2017 | Josh Burton

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who is currently teaching at Stanford and used to be at Northwestern, gave an interesting talk about climate change on Thursday evening in the Segal Visitors Center that approached the subject from the social -- as opposed to scientific -- perspective. Over 120 attendees listened intently as Klinenberg talked about the infamous 1995 Chicago heat wave, chronicled in his book Heat Wave, to contextualize other extreme world weather events and explain how citizens and government need to work together to protect society from the climate.

Klinenberg emphasized adaptation and transformation as necessary public policy strategies, as well as the importance of community and community organizations that can help people in times of crisis. Drawing from his own personal experience during Hurricane Sandy, he mentioned how social infrastructure in the hard-hit Rockaways (an area in Queens) helped to limit fatalities. He also noted how the confluence of different disciplines -- from architecture to climate science -- can help to solve some of these monumental man-made problems.

The End of White Christian America

March 6, 2017 | Melissa Calica

On February 28 at Alice Millar Chapel, Robert P. Jones of the Public Religions Research Institute (PRRI) gave a talk about his book, The End of White Christian America. Over 40 attendees listened to how Protestant Christians aligned closely with Republican voting tendencies, and Jones' graphs pointed to the decline of the White Christian majority in this country.

The increase of Hispanic and African American Christians in the United States has threatened the political power of White Christians, as seen in the PRRI data. Jones shared his preface and epilogue, where he humorously spoke of the end of White Christian America in terms of an obituary and eulogy. This talk was clever, illuminating, and thought-provoking on the intersection between religion and politics.

Northwestern stuns Michigan in thrilling basketball game

March 1, 2017 | Josh Burton

NUpredicts: Men's basketball couldn't have taken place on a more fortunate day. The Wildcats beat the Michigan Wolverines 67-65 on a last-second layup by Dererk Pardon off a long pass from Nathan Taphorn. Over 220 people submitted their predictions before the game on NUpredicts, but no one could have even predicted how Wednesday's game would end. Check out the full list of winners here.

Samantha Bee talks Trump, feminism, politics

February 28, 2017 | Josh Burton

The comedian and star of TBS' late night show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee spoke at Cahn Auditorium on Tuesday night, mostly focusing on how her show has changed since the election. Making her political stance clear, Bee mixed serious and honest talk with jokes in a way that captivated everyone in attendance.

Bee spoke in conversation with Rebecca Traister, who is a journalist and Northwestern alum that has written about Bee. Traister asked Bee a few of her own questions and, at the end, Bee actually took pre-submitted questions from attendees. One of the highlights: Bee says right-leaning political satire is not possible.

NUpredicts: The Oscars

February 27, 2017 | Josh Burton

A total of 736 members of the Northwestern community, including undergraduate and graduate students from each school as well as faculty and staff, made their best predictions on NUpredicts for how this year's Academy Awards would turn out. And while no one could have predicted the announcement mishap with Best Picture, 25 predictors stood out above the rest and earned $20 Chipotle gift certificates, a copy of The Signal and the Noise and a One Book shirt. You can see the winners names and scores here.

Academy Awards viewing party held in Norris

February 26, 2017 | Ryan Albelda

Hosted by One Book, Dance Marathon and Student Affairs, the Oscars viewing party held at Norris' Starbucks was a hit. Seven teams of students joined together to answer Oscar-centric trivia questions -- emceed by Dance Marathon -- for the chance to win gift cards to Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6, Chipotle and Starbucks.

A delicious dinner was served in the Dittmar Gallery by the Department of Student Organizations and Activities for which nearly 70 students ate as they watched the show. Also, over 736 members of the Northwestern community made pre-show online predictions through NUpredicts, but no one could have expected both La La Land and Moonlight to be considered Best Picture, if only for a few minutes.

Quartz' Hilary Fung discusses data visualization in journalism

February 15, 2017 | Josh Burton

As the editor of Quartz' data and chart vertical, Atlas, Hilary Fung works with statistics, numbers and graphs all the time, for a variety of story topics. She's also a Northwestern alumnus and spoke to Professor Steven Franconeri's PSYCH 314 -- Presenting Data & Ideas class in Tech LR4 on Wednesday afternoon about her work and how, whether it's sports, higher education or politics, data visualization can help predict certain events and explain/help to understand others.

Franconeri's class focuses on how to best present information, and Fung -- for a variety of outlets -- has done exactly that. She described, in depth, her experience working with The Huffington Post and The Chronicle for Higher Education on a project analyzing the viability of college athletic programs as well as a project looking at people that die while in American jails.

Do matchmaking sites/apps work? Eli Finkel says Tinder is the best

February 11, 2017 | Vinni Bhatia

Last Thursday, Professor Eli Finkel gave an impressive talk on the science behind matchmaking algorithms, and whether they’re effective or not. Prof. Finkel, a joint Kellogg/Psychology faculty member, first gave a brief history of matchmaking sites such as, eHarmony, and Tinder, and then transitioned into a discussion on his research.

He split the algorithms of matchmaking up into two distinct problems. The first problem, dubbed the “easy” problem, was making matchmaking more efficient. Tinder had essentially solved this problem. The harder problem, in his opinion, was using computers to predict what actually happens when people meet face-to-face, and deciding whether they’re compatible.

In the end, he concluded that if you want to predict long-term satisfaction, the best predictor is chemistry. Professor Finkel also took questions from the crowd; one attendee asked him if he could create any dating site, what would he change? His response – Tinder is already pretty good.

NU professor discusses climate change and her research

February 10, 2017 | Kaitland Postley

The New Book Nook in University Library was packed for the latest One Book Spotlight Series talk featuring Earth and Planetary Sciences Assistant Professor Yarrow Axford. Dr. Axford presented a fascinating lecture about her current research in Greenland and how it has allowed her to collaborate with scientists around the world.

Questions after her lecture centered around Dr. Axford's predictions on the future of climate change research in the United States. While she expressed concern, ultimately she stressed that climate change research requires collaborative efforts from scientists around the world, so while there may be some gaps there will still be data. Don’t miss One Book’s next Spotlight Series in University Library's New Book Nook!

Unpredictable Super Bowl watched by NU community in Norris

February 6, 2017 | Ryan Albelda

No one could have possibly predicted the highs and lows of Sunday's Super Bowl, unless you've watched Tom Brady and the New England Patriots before, who beat Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28 to cap off another crazy NFL season. Over 100 NU students munched on food provided by Northwestern Student Organizations and Activities and watched the the game in Norris. 6 teams of students participated in trivia, sponsored by Northwestern Quiz Bowl, before the game, for which prizes were given.

Some forecasts gave the Patriots as little as a 3% chance of winning after going down by as much as 25 points in the third quarter. But, as Nate Silver mentioned throughout The Signal and the Noise, sometimes the predictions don't end up telling the whole story.

Hidden Figures showing draws a crowd

January 29, 2017 | Melissa Calica

NU Nights and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a private screening of Hidden Figures at the Century 12 Theatre in Evanston. There were over 200 signups and the theatre was almost full of mostly undergraduate students. The film itself was very inspiring and humorous at times; the opening features the three main women chase a white policeman.
The scene with the hacked-off bathroom sign was funny but also caused me to think about the unspoken consequences of segregation which is a main theme of the film. Relating to The Signal and the Noise, this movie shows insight into computing and data at NASA during the Space Race. This event was very enjoyable and I predict that the movie will be recognized with film awards in the future.

Public Policy is Focus of Latest Dittmar Dinner

January 25, 2017 | Josh Burton

Are some people more likely to be successful in life solely because of events that occur before they're even born? That topic and other interesting policy-related issues were discussed on Tuesday night at Norris Center's Dittmar Art Gallery for the second Dittmar Dinner of the school year. Attendees feasted on some great food and heard an informative lecture from professor David Figlio, who runs the on-campus Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

Figlio spoke about research being done by Northwestern professors that is seeking to determine how the government and other policymaking organizations can better allocate funds, decide who to help and figure out what problems are the most important to tackle. There were many lively discussions to be had and even some ethical points raised throughout the evening.

Data as Art Exhibit Opens at Ford Design Center

January 24, 2017 | Ryan Albelda

This past Friday, in collaboration with Northwestern Engineering and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), a different kind of art exhibit opened up in the Ford Engineering Design Center. Students from both schools participating in the 'Data as Art' class presented their own displays made up of data.

At the opening reception of the exihibit, SAIC dean Lisa Wainwright spoke about how much she enjoys working with engineers and being able to collaborate with Northwestern. Julio Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering, echoed Wainwright and touched on how the exhibit helps engineers have a whole-brain learning experience by doing more than just solving complicated math problems.

One display showcased people's reactions to being shown thought-provoking video clips. The goal of the piece was to use facial recognition data and turn it into art.

A striking piece at the exhibit was 'Lead'. The display is a plastic sphere with all seventy-seven Chicago neighborhoods listed in alphabetical order. There are strings attached to each neighborhood representing the number of times members of each community have asked for a lead test. The 175 strings, in total, are attached to the ring and strings converge at a point to create a visual of a pipe.

It was very cool to see how the exhibit has evolved over the years with each successive group of students. The exhibit will remain on display in Ford's atrium for the next month.

Vice News Tonight's Allison McCann discusses data visualization, her journalism experience and more 

January 23, 2017 | Kaitland Postley

Having a hard time figuring out how, or, if, you should chart your data? Allison McCann's talk on data and graphics on January 17th provided the basics on answering that all-too-important question. McCann took attendees on a journey through her career as a visual journalist for Bloomberg Businessweek, FiveThirtyEight, and currently HBO's Vice News Tonight. Along the way, McCann provided insights into her methodology and toolset for creating stunning visual graphics that inform, engage, excite, and surprise her viewers. From embracing the familiar forms of Nigel Holmes to inventing a data predictor for women's March Madness, McCann's talk presented a new way of understanding and appreciating visual journalism.

Professor Robert Korajczyk uses the Efficient Market Hypothesis to make educated investments

January 18, 2017 | Melissa Calica

This event, sponsored by One Book One Northwestern and the Undergraduate Econ Society, was very popular – students filled the sides of Jacobs Room 1246 and stood against the walls to hear Professor Robert Korajczyk talk about the Efficient Market Hypothesis. Over 90 community members came to learn about how to make smart investments. The speaker defined terms such as passive and active investing and connected to predictions in Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise.

He mentioned the patterns in the data and consumers’ ability to see them. In game theory, active management of stocks is a zero-sum game. Using examples like poker, livestock, and Apple, he showed when and where markets are efficient. He discussed weak, strong, and semi forms of efficiency and explained jargon such as “skin in the game,” “patsy,” “2 and 20%” and “having an edge.”

How did polling go wrong in the 2016 Presidential Election?

January 17, 2017 | Josh Burton

An online panel hosted by the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies seeked to answer that question on Tuesday night. Four panelists -- CNN political contributor (and SPS alum) Patti Solis Doyle, SPS MS in Predictive Analytics director Tom Miller, Medill professor Larry Stuelpnagel, and SPS predictive analytics and information design faculty member Marianne Seiler -- discussed through an online teleconference topics ranging from their election predictions of the election, how polling has changed in the modern age, the importance of social media, and how millennials affected the election, among other things.

Swine Flu, Cholera and Anthrax: Dr. Nicholas Soulakis' The Signal and the Noise Discussion

January 17, 2017 | Kaitland Postley

Drunk Nate Silver, beers with John Snow, and Bill Clinton’s heart attack were only a few of the topics that epidemiologist and assistant professor of Health and Biomedical Informatics Nicholas Soulakis touched on during his book discussion on public health, terrorism, and medicine on Thursday, January 12th in the New Book Nook in University Library.

Dr. Soulakis presented a fun and informative lecture on the '90s Anthrax panic that terrorized the nation and the 2009 swine flu “epidemic” centered in Corona, Queens. Dr. Soulakis provided firsthand experience and humorous stories about how epidemiologists sift through the data to find the signal in the noise. The next One Book discussion will focus on weather and climate change and will be presented by Earth and Planetary Sciences Assistant Professor Yarrow Axford in the New Book Nook in University Library on Thursday, February 2nd at 5:00 pm. Check out more great One Book programming at!

Interview with Professor Dr. Nicholas Soulakis

January 11, 2017 | Josh Burton

Another Signal and the Noise book discussion is coming up this Thursday, January 12th at 5:00 PM in Main Library's New Book Nook, this one to be led by Assistant Professor of Preventative Medicine (Health and Biomedical Informatics) Dr. Nicholas Soulakis. Professor Soulakis did a great interview recently with the Northwestern Public Health Review that you should definitely check out if you plan on joining the discussion on Thursday (remember: there will be refreshments!).

One Book and CCE's Museum of Science and Industry Tour

January 7, 2017 | Josh Burton

Through the work of both One Book and Northwestern's Center for Civic Engagement, over 90 Northwestern faculty, students and community members visited Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday afternoon. The visit was funded and co-sponsored by Student Affairs.

Northwestern professors served as museum docents, explaining exhibits befitting their expertise: Pablo Luis Durango-Cohen (associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering) spoke on Fast Forward -- Inventing the Future, Daniel Horton (assistant professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences) discussed Understanding the Weather and Joshua Leonard (associate professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering) talked about Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery.

After each group heard what each professor had to say about their designated specialty area, attendees were free to roam the Museum as they saw fit. A major highlight was the Science Storms exhibit, which showcased how devastating natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions are actually caused.

Numbers to Narrative: Telling Stories to Data

November 29, 2016 | Ari Levin

One Book One Northwestern was proud to welcome Northwestern alum Dhrumil Mehta to campus. Mehta currently works as a political database journalist for FiveThirtyEight, working alongside The Signal and the Noise author Nate Silver to combine data and journalism. Mehta spoke about the challenges of being a database journalist, and of adapting from software engineering to journalism.

The first thing Mehta had to adapt to was the breakneck pace of the newsroom. “Newsrooms are fast, so you have to work fast," Mehta said. On his first day at FiveThirtyEight, he learned that sometimes he couldn’t spend the time to do a project in its entirety, but had to do a partial project to meet a deadline. He had to learn about the many differences in journalism than in software development. This included an intense focus on accuracy, and on sources.

Over time, Mehta along with the rest of the FiveThirtyEight team learned how to combine journalism and data in a groundbreaking way. This included stories that used data to run counter to a media narrative, such as a story Mehta wrote that showed that Tea Party Republicans in congress were actually older, not younger, than their establishment counterparts. They also use data in more traditional journalism ways, such as using graphs and numbers in a profile. Mehta also works on journalism about data, including a story about the difficulty of scientific studies.

Mehta graduated from Northwestern with a degree in philosophy and a minor in cognitive science, and holds a Master's degree in Computer Science. He became a software engineer at Amazon. Journalism was a big adjustment for Mehta, but it’s something he now finds himself comfortable with. Mehta considers himself currently “65% database, 35% journalist” but he hopes to one day become equal parts both.

Predicting the Unpredictable: NUPredicts and the 2016 Election

November 26, 2016 | Professor Thomas Ogorzalek

What a roller coaster. In keeping with the quantitative spirit of the times, we at One Book sponsored an election prediction game in which members of the Northwestern community pitted their wits against each other to forecast some results of the 2016 election. Here’s how it worked: between October 25 and November 7, players could log in using their NetID and answer a series of questions (listed below). Players would get points only for correct answers. Here’s the tricky part: the amount of points you got for a correct answer is based on how many other players made that prediction. If practically everyone was predicting a particular result you would get fewer points than if you correctly predicted a result that very few people predicted. This encouraged players to think probabilistically—rather than just thinking about which event seemed more likely, the points structure rewarded those who thought closely about how likely a given outcome was, and made their prediction accordingly.

Players could log in and make their answers any time during the open window. After the election day was done, the points (and prizes) were doled out.

In our game, players were asked to predict a series of outcomes that were determined on Election Day. Here are the questions from the game, along with the percent of players who answered correctly:

  1. Who will be elected President in 2016?  (Trump, 9.6%)

  2. Will Hillary Clinton win a majority of the overall popular vote? (No, 35.4%)

  3. Will voter turnout (as a percent of the voting age population) be greater than it was in 2012? (No, 36.2%)*

  4. Which candidate will win each of the following States?

    1. Ohio (Trump, 40.5%)

    2. Pennsylvania (Trump, 7%)

    3. Georgia (Trump, 86.9%)

    4. Nevada (Clinton, 76.4% )

    5. Iowa (Trump, 44.5%)

    6. Florida (Trump, 29.4%)

    7. Arizona (Trump, 34.2%)

  5. Will Hillary Clinton get 370 or more electoral votes? (No, 76.7%)

  6. Will Donald Trump get 370 or more electoral votes? (No, 93.1%)

  7. What percent of the popular vote will Clinton get in Illinois? (more than 55%, 90.4%)

  8. Will one candidate win the popular vote, but the other candidate win the electoral college vote? (Yes,  9.8%)

  9. Will Clinton win at least one state that Romney won in 2012? (No, 6.7%)

  10. Will Trump win at least one state that Obama won in 2012? (Yes, 54.3%)

  11. Will a candidate OTHER than Trump or Clinton place first or second in any state? (No, 66.1%)

  12. Will there be a state-wide recount in any state  (No, 60.7%)*

  13. Which party will have a majority in the House of Representatives after the election? (Republican)

  14. Will Illinois Democrats increase their number of seats in the House of Representatives?  (Yes, 86.7%)

  15. Which party will have majority control of the Senate after the election? (Republican, 22.7%)

  16. Will Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House after the 2016 election? (No, 83.8%)

  17. Who will win the Illinois Senate election? (Tammy Duckworth, 91.7%)

  18. Will Illinois Democrats win “veto-proof” majorities in both the State House and State Senate? (No, 85.5%)

  19. Will @realDonaldTrump send more than 17 tweets on November 8, 2016 (not counting re-tweets)? (No, 12.1%)

*As of this writing; may change but we won’t update the game.

I also used this game as an opportunity to study some of the factors associated with accurate predictions. Along with the game questions, players were asked to (anonymously) complete a short set of survey questions about their political views, their past voting behavior, and their sources of political information. The idea behind these questions is to help contribute to our understanding of political information processing—whether some persons are more biased than others, whether more information (ie, playing at a later date) was helpful or not, and whether being a political scientist (like me) actually helps one make “good” predictions. I’ve just begun to comb through the data, but here are a few immediate insights.

One of the interesting pieces here is that there was a clear bias among NUPredicts players on behalf of Clinton for many of these states. While One Book’s own Nate Silver gave Clinton a 71.4% chance of winning the Presidency on the eve of the election, 91.4% of game players predicted she would win (to be fair, most of the other forecasters gave Clinton a higher chance than Silver did). Given the information available, from prediction markets like Predict It, polls, and the like, a savvy player might have bucked the trend and picked some of the “undervalued” assets. Indeed, that’s what we see among the highest scorers: even though they weren’t particularly conservative, or Republican-leaning, the top scorers were likely to have predicted a Trump victory in a few swing states that were closer in the polls than they were in our game. Overall, party identification had a pretty strong relationship to one’s score in the game—strong Republicans on average scored about twice as many points as Democrats. Independents and non-strong Republicans were in between. The figure below shows this graphically: with a different box for each level of partisanship (Strong Democrats to Strong Republicans), and the averages for each group. Both groups of Democrats averaged about 2,000 points. Independents and “non-strong” Republicans averaged about 2,500—but strong Republicans averaged about 4,000. BOTH groups were probably influenced by partisan bias, given the available information, and there were very high and very low scores in each of the groups. On average, though, the outcome in the end favored those who bet on Trump (which was of course a high-payoff strategy given the rules of the game).

One other facet of the game was its time frame: players could play any time from its opening (on October 25th) until midnight before election day. We would expect there to be definite advantages to waiting, as the polls narrowed significantly in the week before the run-up, in part due to the FBI’s controversial non-revelatory intervention into the campaign narrative. But the time window doesn’t seem to have given much predictive benefit. Perhaps because of the partisan bias of the overall pool, or maybe because there was so much going on and all the polls were still predicting a Clinton victory, there doesn’t appear at first glance to be any information effect among participants—players who made their choices very late in the game did no better than those who played very early in the window, and those who follow politics very closely did no better than those who don’t pay much attention at all. I’ll be digging in more closely to see what other factors were related to correct predictions.

Why prediction markets?

The NU Predicts game was based on Nate Silver’s website, which relies on a complicated formula to aggregate voters’ expressed preferences into overall forecasts of what is likely to occur. Political scientists and others are increasingly using prediction markets as tools for aggregating information and forecasting the future. The idea behind them is that when people have “skin in the game” (usually, something significant and material at stake, but in our case just pride of wit and a pretty spiffy One Book t-shirt for a prize) and are asked to voice their beliefs about the future (rather than just their preferences), self-interest will make them more likely to take a clear-eyed look at what’s going to occur, rather than make a biased judgment on what they hope will occur, or take a position that they feel may actually change that outcome. It’s akin to the economic idea that the market sets the “true” price of a good based on lots of input from lots of people using their own judgment and slices of the information pie. If you’re interested in seeing more such prediction in action, visit, a political futures market founded in part by some researchers studying this idea.

In the case of the 2016 election, most Wildcats got most of the answers wrong here, including the one that will likely have the most real-world impact. Of course, this was true for most pollsters, and most political scientists—perhaps because we were all relying on similar pieces of information, or some important pieces were invisible to our information processors.

The Next One!

If you feel like you need to totally redeem yourself after this one, or missed the game entirely, don’t worry—NU Predicts will be back in January with Wildcats basketball games and an Oscars prediction game. Visit the NU Predicts Calendar for more info.

Macbeth: A Staged Reading

November 11, 2016 | Melissa Calica

This past Friday, Northwestern's Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts sponsored a staged reading of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Directed by Kathryn Walsh and vocally designed by Linda Gates, seven students read through the lines and added some syllabant sounds, clapping, and stomping. There were no props or a set except for a bell and several music stands to hold the scripts, and the starkness of the set only added to the poignancy. After the reading, the actors and directors had a panel discussion connecting the play to Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise. The repetition of the witches' prophecies increased the tension of the tragedy, and when all actors spoke the witches' lines, the audience felt the prediction take a life of its own, especially as each character used the predictions to shape their own opinions and actions. It was very interesting to hear how Shakespeare's words still resonate today, especially with regards to Silver's work.

It's complicated: The unpredictability of predictions in elections

November 10, 2016 | Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

In the end, it came down to will she or won’t she?

What seemed like a comfortable 81 percent chance of winning the election for Hillary Clinton just a couple of weeks ago, morphed into a tight race to the finish after FBI director James Comey announced a new investigation of a new round of Clinton’s emails. But she was still expected to win the presidency – until the reality of the red wall of electoral votes gave the victory to Donald Trump.

Clearly predicting outcomes of complex events such as election winners using data and statistical calculations is what statistician and journalist Nate Silver does on a regular basis through his news website He and his team collate mountains of live polling data and crunch these numbers via different statistical and mathematical models to arrive at these predictions. Trump was stronger wherever the economy was weaker,  with slower job growth and lower wages. And he outperformed Clinton in all those counties, it states on Silver’s website as part of the election analysis.

Silver, a statistician by training, started his career analyzing numbers for baseball. But he catapulted into national fame for successfully hitting the bulls-eye, predicting who the president would be in the 2008 and 2012 elections. His 2012 book ‘The Signal and the Noise’, on the art of predicting, hit the New York Times bestseller list. Last month, as part of the ‘One Book One Northwestern’ program, he talked about his book at the Northwestern University.

Here’s what he said, though we clearly need a new book now. “Prediction is intrinsic to the scientific method, where we are all kind of flailing around and trying to figure out what the truth really is, what’s subjective and what’s not,” said Silver in an interview before his talk. “So to me, a prediction is central to the process of gaining knowledge,” he added. But it still relies on theories and abstract models.

In his talk to a packed auditorium at Northwestern University, Silver noted a shocking statistic – that 90 percent of the data available in the world was recorded in the past couple of years! And we are now grappling with the issues of how to analyze these vast volumes of “big data.”

“As far as forecasting complex events such as earthquakes and terrorism, people have made very little progress since it’s never as easy as a push button solution. One of the biggest challenges of big data is that there is more room for interpretation and errors,” he said.

Taking the case of the election predictions, “newspapers such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune etc. have been making a lot of predictions as to how the presidential race is shaping up and their implications,” said Silver. He continued, “Our role is not to say we can predict everything perfectly but instead to be able to say when things are more or less predictable and what are realistic scenarios versus plausible and unrealistic versus really impossible scenarios.”

Silver emphasized that has been more on the cautious side, predicting that Hillary Clinton had an 80 percent or even 75 percent chance winning as opposed to other polls. However, he mentioned that it is not always easy to make successful predictions because ‘uncertainty’ gets in its way.

And what is uncertainty? Let us take the example of the 2016 elections, which has a lot more ambiguity compared to the previous elections. Silver said, “Younger voters are a major source of uncertainty. The way it shows up is a higher number of undecided voters. We are not going to have many millennials who vote for Donald Trump, but they could vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or decide not to vote.” Silver warned that if the Bernie Sanders voters from the primaries did not go out to vote on the day of the election, then Clinton would be at risk.

In fact, the millennial vote split at 55 percent for Clinton, 37 percent for Trump and rest – 8 percent – voted for a variety of candidates.

Since election polls are all based on a certain sample size, one of the other major components affecting the ability to correctly predict elections is calculating the margin of error, said Silver. In statistics, the error margin calculation enables us to discern the “accuracy” and in turn, assess the uncertainty of prediction.

Drawing on weather forecasting and disasters in his book, Silver said, “In April 1997, the Red River flooded a town in North Dakota as the state had faced heavy snowfall that year. Although it didn’t result in any loss of life, it resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents with clean up costs running into billions. This damage could have been mitigated.” Yes, the National Weather Service had predicted that this flood would crest at an all-time high of 49 feet. What they missed in this prediction was the “uncertainty.”

“It turns out, in this case, the margin of error calculation resulted in +9 to -9 feet,” said Silver, meaning the river could have crested anywhere between 40 and 58 feet. As a result, the prediction was much too “perfect.” The levees were built to withstand a maximum of 51 feet, but that year the water crested at 54 feet, defying the Weather Service’s precise prediction.

Silver plans to predict much more than sports and elections on “We’d like to look at areas of criminal justice for example, which is a case where, for a long time, you didn’t have very good data. There’s pressure now to get more data,” he said referring to some underrepresented areas of prediction. Education, public policy, urban planning etc. are other areas, which Silver said he would like to explore.

Talking about his inspiration to create the website, Silver said, “It was partly due to my frustration with the way elections were covered by media.” And he cautioned about the dangers of publishing breaking news too quickly in today’s expeditious world. “It’s important to understand what’s going on first before hyping stories. The quick turn-around time in a journalistic sphere is misguided,” he said, adding that it is critical to maintain objectivity while reporting news.

Silver highlighted, without uncertainty, the need for more STEM graduates in the U.S. who would be trained in quantitative skills needed to promote the future of data journalism. “Young journalists need to understand the importance of data visualization, which is another valuable skill to have,” he said.

Silver also stressed the importance of having people trained in cross-disciplinary fields. “I think we will see that happening but we can’t solve a big human capital problem overnight. It will happen over a generation or half a generation,” he said.

Speeches and Actions in the Presidential Election

November 3, 2016 | Melissa Calica

A panel of professors from Northwestern and a few other institutions met in University Hall last Thursday to discuss the upcoming election and social movements such as the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. The discussion, moderated by Northwestern political science assistant professor Thomas Ogorzalek, included Malik Alim (the Roosevelt Institute and Black Youth Project 100), Deva Woodly (the New School for Social Research), Chloe Thurston (Northwestern's political science department) and Jeffrey Goldfarb (the New School). Audience members asked questions about the future of American politics and how some social phenomena came to be.

As a sociology major, I found this talk very enlightening, especially since, in my Class and Culture Sociology class, we discussed the presidential debates and the similarities between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. It was an honor to hear these experts and leading researchers share their insights on what to expect in the election and beyond.

Chicago: City of Big Data Exhibit

November 3, 2016 | Macray Poidomani

Whether it's the data for every crime committed since 2001 or the salaries of every City of Chicago employee, data is open and accessible in Chicago. According to Tom Schenk Jr., the Chief Data Officer for the city, data is building community and leading to innovate solutions in Chicago. Open data is leading to collaboration between Chicago and voters, academic institutions, and small businesses. Moreover, predictive analytics are used and data is incorporated to do everything from catching rodents to optimizing food inspectors. Schenk certainly proved that data is all around us and Chicago is taking advantage of that fact to improve governmental services.

There's still time to get your NUPredicts answers in

November 3, 2016 | Josh Burton

NUPredicts: The Election will be open until November 7th at 11:59 PM so make sure to get your predictions in now! The information will be used to help the research of political science professor Tom Ogorzalek, who says in Northwestern News: “College is a crucial time for young people to start developing habits of civic engagement, and the November 8th election will be the first formative experience for many Northwestern students."

Get your predictions in today online at this link: All you need is a NetID!

Dr. Richard Lewis of the University of Michigan gives talk in Annenberg

November 2, 2016 Tamar Daskin

Richard Lewis, psychology and linguistics professor at the University of Michigan, came to Northwestern to give a talk about his research in computational modeling and prediction in linguistics last week. With about 40 people in attendance, Annenberg 303 was comfortably full.

Professor Lewis’ talk delved into his research on how the brain processes language. While the talk was not overly technical, it was certainly geared to a cognitive psychology audience. One of the factors explored in his research is determining how the brain filters out the noise of everyday experiences. The noise created in short-term memory is part of what predicts whether a person will perform better or worse in a functional language processing test. Dr. Lewis’ results show that accuracy is affected by the promised reward in experimental settings, and that the fundamental constraint on short term memory is filtering the noise out and retaining the signal for what is being asked of the participant. His model predicts the adaptation of the brain to reward payoffs, and all of this processing happens within 4 or 5 repetitions of the experiment.

Overall, the talk was very interesting and demonstrated, even to a lay audience, one of the ways in which the brain is constantly parsing out the signal from the noise. Dr. Lewis’ research focuses, in part, on how to predict processing speed of the brain in order to better understand language processing in the brain.

Northwestern a leader in voter engagement during 2016 election season

November 1, 2016 | Alexandria Marie Johnson

In anticipation of the November 8 general election, Northwestern University’s Center for Civic Engagement has been working to increase political and voter engagement on campus through a variety of initiatives – including partnership with One Book One Northwestern.

This year’s selection, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail – but Some Don't by Nate Silver, describes modern data-based prediction theories in critical fields, including political polling. In partnership with One Book, the Center for Civic Engagement has supported engagement efforts like debate watch parties for the campus community.

“College aged-students are not well-known for their voter turnout, yet I do think that college campuses are often home to a lot of important social movements,” said NU Votes staffer Rabeya Mallick. “If we can get more and more students engaged and invested in the political process by voting, I think we can change this common narrative that young people don't care and young people don't count.”

This fall, 96 percent of eligible freshmen were registered to vote by the end of move-in day through NU Votes, a non-partisan initiative by the Center designed to provide the Northwestern community with accessible and understandable information about voter registration and voting procedures.

“The earlier that college-aged students start engaging in the political process, the more likely we are to continue to stay engaged throughout our lives. That's huge,” said NU Votes staffer Bella Sandoval, SESP ’17. “It's not just about getting college students registered to vote. It's about registering students to vote, so they can begin on this path of civic engagement, of participation in our democracy. How cool is that?”

This fall, NU Votes launched a new set of online tools to help students check their voter registration status, register for the first time, update their registration information or request an absentee ballot in any of the 50 states. Through a weeklong Voter Registration Station at Norris University Center, the NU Votes tools were used more than 2,000 times.

“Our work is to help students get to that first step of registering to vote and hopefully voting, and then hopefully that can lead to further community engagement,” Mallick said.

The week before the election, NU Votes will be helping transport students to the Evanston Civic Center for early voting and grace period voter registration. The popular “Voter Van” will beback on campus November 2-4 from 1-7pm, departing from Norris every 20 minutes until 6:40pm each evening.

"The Voter Van is both fun and convenient,” Mallick said. “It makes voting so much easier and accessible to busy students, and I think it also makes the process of voting feel like more of a communal and shared experience.”

Chicago Humanities Festival: Hasan Elahi

October 31, 2016 | Melissa Calica

Hasan Elahi, a professor and media artist known for his work on surveillance and privacy, spoke at the Block Museum on Saturday as part of the ongoing Chicago Humanities Festival. In a room of over 100 people of all ages and backgrounds, Elahi spoke about his experiences as a target of the FBI and of the art project that he made out of it. He stressed the idea that sharing private information out into the world ironically serves as protection by producing a lot of data camouflage, to echo Nate Silver and The Signal and the Noise. Elahi himself has amassed tons of pictures and shared an exaggerated amount of information publicly, right down to the humorous pictures of toilets he has visited.

Blending humor and shock, he shared some surprising facts about the crazy amount of data that the government can access. It can be frightening to think about surveillance and privacy, especially in terms of the government and FBI, but it is interesting and thought-provoking how mass data can serve as signal through a maze of noise.

ETOPiA's Friday Night at the Movies: Tim's Vermeer

October 31, 2016 | Kaitland Postley

This past Friday night, ETOPiA (Engineering and the Engineering Transdisciplinary Outreach Projects in the Arts), presented the film Tim's Vermeer in Ryan Auditorium. The film followed inventor Tim Jenison as he attempted to understand the science behind the masterful work of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Jenison's journey to understand Vermeer took him to The Netherlands and England to observe the work of this elusive artist.

Jenison uses his background in visual design and his experience with technology to attempt what many believed impossible: to paint a Vermeer. The film played out like a research paper on film, and with the addition of a panel discussion presented by ETOPiA, many in the audience left the film laughing, smiling, and thinking about the real difference between art and technology. Be sure to check out the next screenings in ETOPiA's film series and keep up to date with all of the fun One Book programming!

Signal and the Noise Book Discussion: Politics

October 27, 2016 | Josh Burton

Political polls, Nate Silver, and the use of data in political projections were some of the topics mentioned on Wednesday night in University Library's New Book Nook in a discussion led by Thomas Ogorzalek, an assistant professor of political science, the first of five to held throughout the year on various topics. The second chapter of The Signal and the Noise, called Are You Smarter Than A Television Pundit, focused on how often political analysts mis-predict the results of elections for a variety of reasons, which served as the springboard for the talk.

Ogorzalek's discussion centered around the statistical methods used by analysts, such as Nate Silver, to construct methodologies to predict various political events based off polling data, demographics and historical inputs. A co-director of the Chicago Democracy Project, Ogorzalek researches demography, politics and shifts in American history through a political science lens.

Third Presidential Debate Watch at Norris

October 19, 2016 | Kaitland Postley

Last night at the Norris Debate Watch, students gathered to view the third and final debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. While the proceedings started out relatively tame, the debate quickly heated up when candidates responded to questions concerning the Supreme Court, economy, international hot spots, and national debt. The responses got Northwestern students to laugh, gasp, and at times, rendering them speechless.

With everything that happened on screen, it was a good thing that Political Science professor Thomas Ogorzaleck and fellow colleagues were present for a post-debate talk-back sponsored by the Political Science department, the Office of Student Affairs, One Book, and Norris. Students discussed their reactions to the debate and received answers for some lingering policy questions before they line up to vote on November 8th.

One Book's next events covering politics and the upcoming election include the October 25 launch of NUpredicts: The Election where NU students vote on which candidate they believe will win be the next president, and the One Book Group Discussion on Politics hosted by Professor Thomas Ogorzaleck in the New Book Nook of University Library on October 26 from 5-6pm. Don’t miss out on your chance to get involved!

Nate Silver speaks to packed house at One Book keynote

October 6, 2016 | Erin Karter

EVANSTON - Analytics guru and political prognosticator Nate Silver touched upon predictions related to the election, of course, the Cubs and monster Hurricane Matthew that was headed toward the Florida coast as he addressed a sold-out crowd of approximately 1,000 people at Northwestern’s Pick Staiger Concert Hall on Thursday, Oct. 6.

As of that moment in time, his predictive analytics, unfortunately, had the Cubs losing the World Series.  While urging caution because of the volatile dynamics and variables involved in political prognosticating, Silver predicted that the Democrats are likely to win a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate.  

Silver, the author of this year's One Book One Northwestern selection, “The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail — But Some Don't,” is the founder of  – which correctly predicted the winner of the presidential contests in 49 of 50 states in 2008 and called the correct winner in all 50 states in 2012.

In his address, the master number cruncher of modern day life, ran through a litany of topics to illustrate the complexity of predictive data science, pointing to its great successes and monumental failures.

Silver was on the same page with the majority of Northwestern students, faculty and staff – almost 500 – who, through NUpredicts, predicted that the Cubs will not win the World Series and that the Democrats will win a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate.

But political prognosticating, he said, is particularly difficult, especially when it comes to this year’s highly volatile presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  

“If we were talking a year ago, I might have told you, ‘Oh, Trump might be leading in the polls ... but we know candidates with his profile don’t win the nomination,” Silver said. “I would have said that with a high degree of confidence, and I would have been very wrong.”

In the general election race between Clinton and Trump, Silver said even the most reliable polling data is little like playing poker.

“There’s just enough signal and there’s just enough noise for there to be a million different ways to interpret the data,” he added.

In his the keynote address, Silver touched on many areas he discussed in his book.

Data, Silver said, is of little use without human insight and experience.

According to Silver, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the past two years.  “Maybe only .009 percent of it is useful data,” he said, adding that much work remains to ease the “tension” between the vast amounts of data and our limited ability to use the data to solve problems. 

With Hurricane Matthew moving toward Florida, he talked about hurricane forecasting as a success story of predictive science – one that has greatly reduced the loss of life.

He also discussed areas where predictions have fallen short, including the forecasting of terrorism, earthquakes and the housing crisis.

Silver praised Northwestern for prioritizing data science and encouraged students to pursue the skills that will enable them to think “probabilistically.”

He also stressed the importance of cultivating diversity in the business of analytics by supporting women and minorities in a field that has historically been dominated by white men.

One Book One Northwestern kicks off its calendar of events

September 23, 2016 | Macray Wendell Poidomani

One Book One Northwestern kicked off its calendar of events with NUpredicts Wildcat Welcome edition as the Northwestern Wildcat football team defeated the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, September 17th.

New and transfer students faced off both individually and between peer advisory groups as they attempted to correctly predict outcomes relating to the football game. Students were asked questions ranging from on-field action to Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s game attire.

Leading the way individually was Deborah Turetsky, who used her prediction ability to amass 2733 pts. Virginia Arguelles followed with 2281 pts. In terms of group performance, peer advisory Group 129 average 802 points per participant, defeating 2nd place Group 147 by 98 average points per participant.

In total, there were 699 total game players. Collectively, this resulted in 6861 predictions.

This year’s book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t,” by Nate Silver, inspired the creation of the app, NUpredicts. The app will be used throughout the year to test Northwestern students, faculty, and staff’s prediction ability for various pop culture, sporting, and political events. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of NUpredicts, which will take place from 10/25-11/7, as the Northwestern community will attempt to utilize lessons learned from “The Signal and the Noise” to predict outcomes relating the United States Presidential Election. You can access the application via the following URL:

One Book One Northwestern would like to thank the Northwestern students, staff, and faculty who aided in the creation and implementation of the app.

To keep up with updates and rules for the game, follow the One Book One Northwestern twitter feed at @OneBookNU or go to the One Book website

One Book One Northwestern Kicks Off With Prediction Challenge

As the Wildcats battle Duke Saturday, students will battle each other on NUpredicts

September 14, 2016 | Erin Karter

Students use the NU Predicts app to make predictions about the Duke v. Northwestern Football Game

EVANSTON, Ill. -- As the Northwestern University Wildcats face off against Duke University this Saturday, teams of new students will be locked in battle to accurately predict the victor, the final score and much more.

One Book One Northwestern is kicking off a year of programing with the unveiling of an online game called NUPredicts, an app inspired by this year’s One Book selection, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don’t,” by analytics guru and political prognosticator Nate Silver.

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