Posts Tagged ‘statistics’
Ever since I found out about the Statistical Atlas of the United States, historically produced by the Census Bureau, it annoyed me that there wasn’t one in the works for the 2010 Census due to cuts in funding. The last one was for 2000. Actually, the 2000 edition was called the Census Atlas, but whatever. With more data than ever, it seems like there should be one.
Maybe that’s why there’s isn’t one. Too much data, too much of an undertaking, and too many bureaucratic decisions to make.
The first Atlas, by Francis A. Walker, was published in 1874 using the data from the prior 1870 Census. Counting cover, credits, and all that, it was 56 pages.
I got to thinking, hey, I could do that. And if I did, I wouldn’t have to be annoyed anymore. So I recreated the original Statistical Atlas of the United States with current data. I used similar styling, and had one main rule for myself. All the data had to be publicly available and come from government sites…
See the stunning– and stunningly useful– results (with larger versions of each chart) at “Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data.”
* “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?” – Hal Varian, The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009
As we discriminate between the median and the mean, we might spare a thought for Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; he died on this date in 1948. A classics scholar who was also an accomplished biologist and mathematician, Thompson is best remembered for On Growth and Form (1917, new ed. 1942), a profound consideration of the shapes of living things, starting from the simple premise that “everything is the way it is because it got that way.” Thus one must study not only finished forms, but also the forces that molded them: “the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’, in this sense, at least, that from it we can judge of or deduce the forces that are acting or have acted upon it.”
The book paved the way for the scientific explanation of morphogenesis, the process by which patterns are formed in plants and animals. Thompson’s description of the mathematical beauty of nature inspired thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing and Claude Levi-Strauss, and artists including Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollock. Peter Medawar, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, called On Growth and Form “the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue.”
Cartographer Daniel Huffman has created a series of maps in which American river systems are visualized as subway maps (specifically, in the manner of Harry Beck’s 1930s London Tube maps), with nodes representing connections between streams and tributaries.
Huffman strikes a particular chord in the map-lover’s heart. On an Internet brimming with sleek, sharp geo-visualizations, Huffman’s maps offer a sweetly idiosyncratic view of the world. The signatures of historic figures turn into street vectors. Oregon’s wine country gets the ‘90s computer-game treatment. A simple bike path becomes a work of calligraphy.
“What it really probably comes down to is a desire to do things differently than others,” he says in an email. “I crave variety, and so it often leads me to thinking of weird ideas and saying, ‘I wonder if I can do X[.]’”
Lately, a trend has emerged out of Huffman’s impulses towards novelty—an idea he calls “Modern Naturalism,” in which his maps present natural features in the type of “highly-abstracted, geometrically precise visual language that we often apply to the constructed world on maps,” according to his website…
More on Huffman and his marvelous maps at “When Rivers Look Like Subway Systems.”
* Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
As we hop onto our rafts, we might send healing birthday greetings to Florence Nightingale, born on this date in 1820. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring. Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health. Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair). Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, and later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
From stat-enthusiast (and full-time law student) Tyler Vigen, entertaining examples of patterns that map in compelling– but totally-inconsequential– ways…
More (and larger) examples at the sensational Spurious Correlations.
* a maxim widely repeated in science and statistics; also rendered: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P). It addresses the post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“affirming the consequent”) logical fallacy
As we think before we leap, we might send energetic (really energetic) birthday greetings to Enrico Fermi; he was born on this date in 1901. A physicist who is best remembered for (literally) presiding over the birth of the Atomic Age, he was also remarkable as the last “double-threat” in his field: a genius at creating both important theories and elegant experiments. As recently observed, the division of labor between theorists and experimentalists has since been pretty complete.
The novelist and historian of science C. P. Snow wrote that “if Fermi had been born a few years earlier, one could well imagine him discovering Rutherford’s atomic nucleus, and then developing Bohr’s theory of the hydrogen atom. If this sounds like hyperbole, anything about Fermi is likely to sound like hyperbole.”
From Google Maps, an altogether-engrossing geographical trivia game: Smarty Pins.
* Terry Pratchett
As we find our bearings, we might spare a thought for Florence Nightingale; she died on this date in 1910. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring. Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health. Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair).
“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have”*…
From the always-amazing Randall Munroe, who reminds us that bacteria still outweigh us thousands to one– and that’s not counting the pounds of them in each of our bodies…
* “The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.”
― David Attenborough, Life on Earth
As we watch our weight, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to John Graunt; he was born on this date in 1620. A London haberdasher by trade, Graunt was fascinated the human tide that swelled around him– a fascination that led him to create the first statistically-based estimation of the population of London in his book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, undertaken as Charles II and other officials were trying to create a system to warn of the onset and spread of bubonic plague in the city. Profiled as one of Aubrey’s Brief Lives, Graunt has been called the first statistician, the first demographer, and was in any case the first statistician to become a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
It’s that time again– the Games are underway…
The Olympics promise many things–triumph of the human spirit, amazing athletic prowess, upsets and underdogs–but the most modern games are ultimately nothing if not a massive, global spectacle. Gustavo Sousa, a painter and creative director at Mother’s London office, was interested in exploring behind the pomp and circumstance. “Events like these can be a good time for reflection.” Oceaniaeuropeamericaasiaafrica illustrates stripped-down statistics from each region through simple scale shifts of the tournament’s iconic quintet of overlapping loops.“The rings represent healthy competition and union, but we know the world isn’t perfect. Maybe understanding the differences is the first step to try to make things more equal.”
* “faster, higher, stronger”– the Olympic motto
As we settle in for the marathon, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that Louis Lassen served the first “hamburger” sandwich… at least, according to the Library of Congress.
Louis Lassen, founder of Louis’ Lunch, ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches to local factory workers. Because he didn’t like to waste the excess beef from his daily lunch rush, he ground it up, grilled it, and served it between two slices of bread — and America’s first hamburger was created.
It will not surprise readers to know that there are many other claimants to that singular honor.
Louis Lassen (source)
From Vali Chandrasekaran, on BusinessWeek.com: Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question. Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.
As we recalibrate our conclusions, we might send amplified birthday wishes to musician, composer, and inventor Les Paul; he was born on this date in 1915. Paul was an accomplished jazz and country songwriter and guitarist; but he is surely best remembered as a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar (and an early adopter of techniques like over-dubbing, tape delay, and multi-track recording)– that’s to say, as a father of rock and roll.
Les Paul, playing a Gibson Les Paul (source)