Statistical Soothsayer (Age: 30)
Until recently, Nate Silver was known in the sports-betting world as the whiz kid who developed PECOTA, an algorithm used to forecast baseball results with unprecedented accuracy (like the Tampa Bay Rays' improbable breakout season, which he predicted way back in February). Last winter he decided to train his brainpower on the race for the White House, anonymously starting the blog FiveThirtyEight (named for the number of electoral-college votes). Obsessively crunching poll results and demographic figures, then plugging them into his own formula, Silver predicted Hillary Clinton's surprisingly narrow victory in the Indiana primary and her 15-point loss in North Carolina within one and two percentage points, respectively—shaming almost every paid professional in the country. Politics junkies took notice. Within months, FiveThirtyEight was attracting more than 600,000 readers a day, and Silver, now unmasked, was receiving glowing endorsements from media pundits. Joe Klein named him "rookie of the year," and Stephen Colbert booked him as a headliner. After less than a year on the job, Silver is the political world's most rigorous, reliable authority on polling. Not bad for a sports geek.