Science

5 posts
Scientists with bad data

Tim Harford warns against bad data in science: Some frauds seem comical. In the 1970s, a researcher named William Summerlin claimed to have found a way to prevent skin grafts from being rejected by the recipient. He demonstrated his results by showing a white mouse with a dark patch of fur, apparently a graft from a black mouse. It transpired that the dark patch had been coloured with a felt-tip...

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Visually displaying multipliers

As I'm preparing a blog about another real-world study of Covid-19 vaccines, I came across the following chart (the chart title is mine). As background, this is the trend in Covid-19 cases in the U.K. in the last couple of months, courtesy of OurWorldinData.org. The React-1 Study sends swab kits to randomly selected people in England in order to assess the prevalence of Covid-19. Every month, there is a new...

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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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What metaphors give, they take away

Aleks pointed me to the following graphic making the rounds on Twitter: It's being passed around as an example of great dataviz. The entire attraction rests on a risque metaphor. The designer is illustrating a claim that Covid-19 causes erectile dysfunction in men. That's a well-formed question so in using the Trifecta Checkup, that's a pass on the Q corner. What about the visual metaphor? I advise people to think...

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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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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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