Blog Archives

Do cents follow Benford’s Law?

October 5, 2011
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Do cents follow Benford’s Law?

Benford's law is an amazing thing. If you know the probability distribution that classes of "natural" numbers should have, you can detect where people might be faking data: phony tax returns, bogus scientific studies, etc.

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Dollars and cents: How are you at estimating the total bill?

September 30, 2011
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Dollars and cents: How are you at estimating the total bill?

When estimating the cost of a bunch of purchases, a useful heuristic is rounding to the nearest dollar. (In fact, on US income tax returns, one is allowed to omit the cents). If prices were uniformly distributed, the following two heuristics would be equally accurate: * Rounding each item up or down to the nearest dollar and summing * Rounding each...

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How many NYC restaurants get As on their health inspections?

August 15, 2011
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How many NYC restaurants get As on their health inspections?

Decision Science News is no stranger to misleading infographics in free New York newspapers. We could stop reading them entirely, but we find that playing "spot the infographic flaw" makes time fly on the subway. Recently we saw the above graphic in a paper called Metro. Can you spot the goof?

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On not going viral

August 1, 2011
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On not going viral

This week the reader is directed to Messy Matters to read up on research conducted by Sharad Goel, Duncan Watts and Dan Goldstein in which they hunted for traces of "viral" diffusion on Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo!, and beyond. The results run counter to mainstream intuition.

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Best graph ever

July 3, 2011
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Best graph ever

Best graph ever. LARGEST EVER DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 328 and 327 SPOTTED IN NEW YORK CITY

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The housing bubble by city

March 17, 2011
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The housing bubble by city

The housing bubble by city. Miami sailed high and fell far. Detroit rose modestly and but dropped more than it went up. Dallas held steady. DC is enjoying a bit of renewed growth, but are in and New York yet to fall?

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Area plots unmasked

December 15, 2010
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Area plots unmasked

RESULTS OF THE GREAT AREA PLOT QUIZ If you are the type of reader who remembers things from last week, you may remember the great area plot quiz we had running. This week, we are excited to announce that the results are in. The plot above shows answers to the four questions. The correct answers

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Once again, chart critics and graph gurus welcome

December 10, 2010
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Once again, chart critics and graph gurus welcome

HOW TO DISPLAY A LINE PLOT WITH COUNT INFORMATION? In a previously-mentioned paper Sharad and your DSN editor are writing up, there is the above line plot with points. The area of each point shows the count of observations. It’s done in R with ggplot2 (hooray for Hadley). We generally like this type of plot,

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Some ideas on communicating risks to the general public

December 3, 2010
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Some ideas on communicating risks to the general public

SOME EMPIRICAL BASES FOR CHOOSING CERTAIN RISK REPRESENTATIONS OVER OTHERS This week DSN posts some thoughts (largely inspired by the work of former colleagues Stephanie Kurzenhäuser, Ralph Hertwig, Ulrich Hoffrage, and Gerd Gigerenzer) about communicating risks to the general public, providing references and delicious downloads where possible. Representations to use less often Single-event probabilities as

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Visualizations of US neighborhoods by race and ethnicity

September 22, 2010
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Visualizations of US neighborhoods by race and ethnicity

HOMOPHILY + MAPS WITHOUT MAPPING SOFTWARE In the past, Decision Science News has posted about homophily (“birds of a feather shop together“) and cool, lightweight visualizations (“maps without map packages in R“). Today, both topics come together in Eric Fischer’s fascinating set of images on Flickr called “Race and Ethnicity”(*).  According to Eric: Red is

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