Shark season

31 December 2013

Summer in Australia comes with cicadas, sunburn and, in the media at least, sharks. So far, I have learned that aerial shark patrols are inefficient (or perhaps not) and that the Western Australian government plans to keep swimmers safe by shooting big sharks. Sharks are compelling objects of fear, right up there with spiders and snakes […]

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ngramr – an R package for Google Ngrams

16 July 2013

The recent post How common are common words? made use of unusually explicit language for the Stubborn Mule. As expected, a number of email subscribers reported that the post fell foul of their email filters. Here I will return to the topic of n-grams, while keeping the language cleaner, and describe the R package I […]

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20 April 2013

I spend a lot of time trawling the internet for data, particularly economic and financial data. Yahoo Finance and Google Finance are handy for market data and “FRED”, the St. Louis Fed is an excellent, albeit US-centric, resource for a broad range of financial aggregates. While these sites make it very easy to automate data […]

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Problem Pies

12 May 2012

Last month the IMF published their latest Global Financial Stability Report. A colleague, who knows I rarely approve of pie charts*, drew my attention to the charts on page 27 of Chapter 3 of the report, which I have reproduced here (click on the image to enlarge).  Here the authors of the report have decided to […]

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Hans Rosling: data visualisation guru

7 January 2011

It is no secret that I am very interested in data visualisation, and yet I have never mentioned the work of Hans Rosling here on the blog. It is an omission I should finally correct, not least to acknowledge those readers who regularly email me links to Rosling’s videos. Rosling is a doctor with a […]

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24 December 2010

Everyone knows hang-gliding is risky. How could throwing yourself off a mountain not be? But then again, driving across town is risky too. In both cases, the risks are in fact very low and assessing and comparing small risks is tricky. Ronald A. Howard, the pioneer of the field of decision analysis (not the Happy […]

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Generate your own Risk Characterization Theatre

25 October 2010

In the recent posts Visualizing Smoking Risk and Shades of grey I wrote about the use of “Risk Characterization Theatres” (RCTs) to communicate probabilities. I found the idea in the book The Illusion of Certainty, by Eric Rifkin and Edward Bouwer. Here is how they explain the RCTs: Most of us are familiar with the crowd in a […]

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Shades of grey

23 October 2010

The recent post on the risks of smoking looked at Rifkin and Bouwer’s “Risk Characterization Theatre” (RCT), a graphical device for communicating risks. The graphic in that post, which compared mortality rates of smokers and non-smokers taken from the pioneering British doctors smoking study, highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of RCTs. The charts certainly […]

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Visualizing smoking risk

21 October 2010

To help perception of risk, Rifkin and Bouwer came up with “Risk Characterization Theatres” (RCTs). This post explores the application of RCTs to visualizing the mortality risks from smoking.

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Bubbles to Brains

12 October 2010

A couple of weeks ago I ranted about a bubble chart which attempted to illustrate trends in CDO issuance by large investment banks. If circles are a bad choice for depicting data, pictures of brains are even worse, but brains are what the BBC News designers settled on when it came to looking at the […]

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