Open Mind

Statistical Presentation: a Work of Art

April 30, 2009 · 30 Comments

Statistics is the mathematical science of the analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. Like many with a theoretical bent, I tend to focus on the analysis and interpretation. But it should not be forgotten that the presentation can have tremendous impact, and add greatly to the clarity with which important conclusions are driven home.

A friend recently sent me a link to a presentation by Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen.

Usually, the phrase “the best stats you’ve ever seen” would be nothing but hyperbole. But in this case … Watch the presentation, I think you’ll be impressed. I know I was.

Categories: Global Warming

30 responses so far ↓

  • cshme // April 30, 2009 at 1:42 am | Reply

    Awesome presentation!

  • George D // April 30, 2009 at 5:05 am | Reply

    I’ve seen it before, but it’s definitely worth watching again.

  • Petro // April 30, 2009 at 5:28 am | Reply

    This was a great presentation. Animated statistics, that’s a trick!

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Gavin's Pussycat // April 30, 2009 at 10:22 am | Reply

    A work of art indeed…

    There is more where this one came from. like:

    This is the stuff hope is made of.

  • Philippe Chantreau // April 30, 2009 at 10:32 am | Reply

    Superb work indeed.

  • mauri pelto // April 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Reply

    I utilized this data set in class this year. My hope was to replace the demographic data with glacier mass balance data. I could not figure out how to do this, though you can alter the existing data sets somewhat to create your own graphs of subsets of the data.

  • Dave A // April 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Reply

    Excellent and inspiring presentation.

    I would note, however, that in my experience (which is obviously not Swedish) no one refers to the developing world as the ‘Third World’ for some considerable time now.

    His graphs also show that while there is still a considerable spread both between and within individual countries the dominant trend worldwide is to greater wealth and improved health and longevity.

    Lastly, he also makes a plea for more transparency and freedom of information, one I am sure climate scientists will be keen to embrace and improve upon their previous efforts in this regard.

    [Response: Climate science as a whole does a fine job of making data freely available. Just look at the "climate data links" page on this blog, for a start.]

  • TCO // April 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Reply

    How about if we make a plea for climate skeptics…I mean denialists…to actually finish analyses…to quantify impacts….to report things whichever way they go (including when their trial shows conventional wisdom holds)…and to publishj formally (thus being terser, higher quality, archived, abstracted, etc.)

  • Ray Ladbury // May 1, 2009 at 1:47 am | Reply

    Dare to dream.

  • Gavin's Pussycat // May 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Reply

    Here is the same on YouTube, which can be played with an older Flash (like the one in my Nokia 810 tablet).

  • Ray Ladbury // May 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Reply

    I finally got a chance to watch that video–truly an awesome example of exploratory data analysis. It is open-ended and suggests promising avenues for modeling. One question that would be very interesting from the climate perspective would be how increased standard of living (both GDP and health) correlate with increased energy consumption. This would be challenging, as part of the correlation would be due to the tendency of people to consume more as they become more affluent. That is one reason why you’d have to look at multiple variables related to general welfare. The differences would be as important as the correlations–e.g. are there paths to increased welfare that are more energy efficient than others and can we promote that type of energy-efficient growth?

  • Deech56 // May 1, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Reply

    The Peter Ward (Under a Green Sky) presentation is also very interesting.

  • Gavin's Pussycat // May 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Reply

    What comes closest for climatology is
    (no, not animated)

  • Rattus Norvegicus // May 2, 2009 at 3:40 am | Reply

    This is a great example of how to turn data into information. I liked the slide about boring statistics.

    He does point out the big problem about turning data into something that people can understand as useful analysis that people can use to form useful policy prescriptions. A great presentation.

  • The Wonderer // May 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Reply

    Anybody know what tools were used to create this presentation? I loved it, but it made me feel terribly out-of-date.

  • mauri pelto // May 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Reply

    In Google docs there is a spreadsheet for motion bubble charts-take a look at that

  • sidd // May 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Reply

  • Lazar // May 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Reply

    Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen.

    The karmic counterpart of WUWT:
    creating myths using the worst stats you’ve ever seen.

  • Kipp Alpert // May 5, 2009 at 12:50 am | Reply

    Lazar; Thoughts like that will offer your own karma a turn, to bite you on the butt. Hopefully.

  • eulochon // May 5, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Reply

    Ray Ladbury: in the next talk advertised on the TED site in my browser (also by Rosen) he addresses CO2 emissions- and strips at the end. Great stuff.

  • Ray Ladbury // May 6, 2009 at 12:58 am | Reply

    Saw the CO2 video, missed the strip.

  • Gavin's Pussycat // May 6, 2009 at 9:23 am | Reply

    Re eulochon, here the same on YouTube.

    Very much worth watching… a surprise at the end (no, a lot more than just stripping)!

  • Ray Ladbury // May 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Reply

    GP and eulochon,
    OK, that was fricking awesome! We need to clone this guy so the next generation has somebody who can teach statistics!

    I was also pleased to see that his conclusions are consistent with my own experience in Africa (albeit, nearly 2 decades ago). I was always daunted by the problems faced by the continent while at the same time being inspired with the ability of the people to cope with and even transcend them. The seemingly impossible really is possible.

  • Dave A // May 6, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Reply


    “I was always daunted by the problems faced by the continent while at the same time being inspired with the ability of the people to cope with and even transcend them.”

    Never underestimate the resourcefulness of people to cope with their circumstances. Plus remember the biases that, unconsciously, you might have had.

  • Ray Ladbury // May 7, 2009 at 12:35 am | Reply

    Dave A., That’s right. Let the adults take care of things. Problems solve themselves, after all, don’t they. No need to dirty your hands and actually work to find a solution. Just sit back, pop a cold one and when a new energy infrastructure is needed, it will magically appear.

  • Kipp Alpert // May 7, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Reply

    Ray Ladbury: I was just subjected to the last James Bond movie. This evil Dude needed some land in Brazil, and the other evil Dude would sell it to him, but told him there was no Oil there so he would sell it to him after he destabilized the World. Have I gone over your your head yet?
    So the first evil dude was really needing that desert, to pipe water through it. Pretty tricky! Wonder what it’s going to be like in one hundred years from now. Now just go play quarters with your wife and see who gets drunk first. Now isn’t that the best solution?

  • Marion Delgado // May 7, 2009 at 9:22 pm | Reply

    The statistics aren’t even “better” let alone “the best.” The statistics presentation is a little peppier, but I’m completely skeptical. I agree with those he criticizes who say there is no substitute for statistical analysis.

    I am not at all fond of TED talks, either. Very often, as was the case with Bjorn Lomborg and Steven Pinker, they’re doing a Julian Simon routine at that place.

  • Dave A // May 7, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Reply


    I was actually responding to something you said in your post.

    Your reply, unfortunately as it often is, was a generalised non sequitur, aka “drivel”.

  • naught101 // May 10, 2009 at 7:57 am | Reply

    Dave A: Ray’s reply makes perfect sense, in the context of your reply, to me. Perhaps your unconscious biases are getting in the way of your analysis?

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