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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The power and peril of FRED

7 July 2012

“FRED” is the St.Louis Federal Reserve Economic Database. It is an excellent repository of economic data, currently boasting 45,000 time-series from 42 data sources. The web-site offers a powerful interface for creating charts of FRED data. Unfortunately, it is a little too powerful, offering a rather dangerous feature: the secondary axis. I have railed against […]

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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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Protovis now working in Chrome and Safari

7 September 2010

Thanks to everyone who responded to my experimental Protovis post*, whether in the survey, via twitter or in comments on the post. It quickly became clear that my trick for including the code to generate the chart completely failed to work in Chrome and Safari browsers. I still do not fully understand why that is, […]

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