Axis

75 posts
Tongue in cheek but a master stroke

Andrew jumped on the Benford bandwagon to do a tongue-in-cheek analysis of numbers in Hollywood movies (link). The key graphic is this: Benford's Law is frequently invoked to prove (or disprove) fraud with numbers by examining the distribution of first digits. Andrew extracted movies that contain numbers in their names - mostly but not always sequences of movies with sequels. The above histogram (gray columns) are the number of movies...

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Working hard at clarity

As I am preparing another blog post about the pandemic, I came across the following data graphic, recently produced by the CDC for a vaccine advisory board meeting: This is not an example of effective visual communications. *** For one thing, readers are directed to scour the footnotes to figure out what's going on. If we ignore those for the moment, we see clusters of bubbles that have remained pretty...

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Check your presumptions while you’re reading this chart about Israel’s vaccination campaign

On July 30, Israel began administering third doses of mRNA vaccines to targeted groups of people. This decision was controversial since there is no science to support it. The policymakers do have educated guesses by experts based on best-available information. By science, I mean actual evidence. Since no one has previously been given three shots, there can be no data on which anyone can root such a decision. Nevertheless, the...

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Hanging things on your charts

The Financial Times published the following chart that shows the rollout of vaccines in the U.K. (I can't find the online link to the article. The article is titled "AstraZeneca and Oxford face setbacks and success as battle enters next phase", May 29/30 2021.) This chart form is known as a "streamgraph", and it is a stacked area chart in disguise.  The same trick can be applied to a column...

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Start at zero improves this chart but only slightly

The following chart was forwarded to me recently: It's a good illustration of why the "start at zero" rule exists for column charts. The poor Indian lady looks like a midget in this women's club. Is the average Indian woman really half as tall as the average South African woman? (Surely not!) The problem is only superficially fixed by starting the vertical axis at zero. Doing so highlights the fact...

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Reading this chart won’t take as long as withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

Art sent me the following Economist chart, noting how hard it is to understand. I took a look, and agreed. It's an example of a visual representation that takes more time to comprehend than the underlying data. The chart presents responses to 3 questions on a survey. For each question, the choices are Approve, Disapprove, and "Neither" (just picking a word since I haven't seen the actual survey question). The...

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The time has arrived for cumulative charts

Long-time reader Scott S. asked me about this Washington Post chart that shows the disappearance of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season: The dataset behind this chart is highly favorable to the designer, because the signal in the data is so strong. This is a good chart. The key point is shown clearly right at the top, with an informative title. Gridlines are very restrained. I'd draw attention...

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Vaccine researchers discard the start-at-zero rule

I struggled to decide on which blog to put this post. The reality is it bridges the graphical and analytical sides of me. But I ultimately placed it on the dataviz blog because that's where today's story starts. Data visualization has few set-in-stone rules. If pressed for one, I'd likely cite the "start-at-zero" rule, which has featured regularly on Junk Charts (here, here, and here, for example). This rule only...

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A note to science journal editors: require better visuals

In reviewing a new small-scale study of the Moderna vaccine, I found this chart: This style of charts is quite common in scientific papers. And they are horrible. It irks me to think that some authors are forced to adopt such styles. The study's main goal is to compare two half doses to two full doses of the Moderna vaccine. (To understand the science, read the post on my book...

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These are the top posts of 2020

It's always very interesting as a writer to look back at a year's of posts and find out which ones were most popular with my readers. Here are the top posts on Junk Charts from 2020: How to read this chart about coronavirus risk This post about a New York Times scatter plot dates from February, a time when many Americans were debating whether Covid-19 was just the flu. Proportions...

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