Science

69 posts
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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Illustrating differential growth rates

Reader Mirko was concerned about a video published in Germany that shows why the new coronavirus variant is dangerous. He helpfully provided a summary of the transcript: The South African and the British mutations of the SARS-COV-2 virus are spreading faster than the original virus. On average, one infected person infects more people than before. Researchers believe the new variant is 50 to 70 % more transmissible. Here are two...

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Reading an infographic about our climate crisis

Let's explore an infographic by SCMP, which draws attention to the alarming temperature recorded at Verkhoyansk in Russia on June 20, 2020. The original work was on the back page of the printed newspaper, referred to in this tweet. This view of the globe brings out the two key pieces of evidence presented in the infographic: the rise in temperature in unexpected places, and the shrinkage of the Arctic ice....

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A beautiful curve and its deadly misinterpretation

When the preliminary analyses of their Phase 3 trials came out , vaccine developers pleased their audience of scientists with the following data graphic: The above was lifted out of the FDA briefing document for the Pfizer / Biontech vaccine. Some commentators have honed in on the blue line for the vaccinated arm of the Pfizer trial. Since the vertical axis shows cumulative number of cases, it is noted that...

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Convincing charts showing containment measures work

The disorganized nature of U.S.'s response to the coronavirus pandemic has created a sort of natural experiment that allows data journalists to explore important scientific questions, such as the impact of containment measures on cases and hospitalizations. This New York Times article represents the best of such work. The key finding of the analysis is beautifully captured by this set of scatter plots: Each dot is a state. The cases...

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Podcast highlights

Recently, I made a podcast for Ryan Ray, which you can access here. The link sends you to a 14-day free trial to his newsletter, which is where he publishes his podcasts. Ryan contacted me after he read my book Numbers Rule Your World (link). I was happy to learn that he enjoyed the stories, and during the podcast, he gave an example of how he applied the statistical concepts...

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Deaths as percent neither of cases nor of population. Deaths as percent of normal.

Yesterday, I posted a note about excess deaths on the book blog (link). The post was inspired by a nice data visualization by the New York Times (link). This is a great example of data journalism. Excess deaths is a superior metric for measuring the effect of Covid-19 on public health. It's better than deaths as percent of cases. Also better than percent of the population.What excess deaths measure is...

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Cornell must remove the logs before it reopens the campus in the fall

Against all logic, Cornell announced last week it would re-open in the fall because a mathematical model under development by several faculty members and grad students predicts that a "full re-opening" would lead to 80 percent fewer infections than a scenario of full virtual instruction. That's what was reported by the media. The model is complicated, with loads of assumptions, and the report is over 50 pages long. I will...

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What is the price for objectivity

I knew I had to remake this chart. The simple message of this chart is hidden behind layers of visual complexity. What the analyst wants readers to focus on (as discerned from the text on the right) is the red line, the seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions due to Covid-19 in Texas. My eyes kept wandering away from the line. It's the sideway data labels on the columns....

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Hope and reality in one Georgia chart

Over the weekend, Georgia's State Health Department agitated a lot of people when it published the following chart: (This might have appeared a week ago as the last date on the chart is May 9 and the title refers to "past 15 days".) They could have avoided the embarrassment if they had read my article at DataJournalism.com (link). In that article, I lay out a set of the "unspoken conventions,"...

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