current events

Another look at ideology of the US congress

November 5, 2012 | David Smith

In response to last week's post on the rapidly increasing ideology of the US Republican Party, Mike Lawrence suggested another way of looking at the DW-NOMINATE ideology data. Rather than simply looking at boxplots of the congress scores by party over time, we could fit a smooth curve to get ... [Read more...]

Watch Obama and Romney criss-cross the US

November 1, 2012 | David Smith

The Washington Post has an interactive graphic showing the rate at which the US presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have visited the various states for campaign rallies and fundraisers. Here's how it looks today: You can clearly see the focus on key swing states like Florida and Ohio, ... [Read more...]

More data apps spawned by Sandy

October 31, 2012 | David Smith

As the clean-up continues on the eastern seaboard, I wanted to follow up on Monday's post on tracking Hurricane Sandy with Open Data with a couple of other R-based data applications spawned by the storm. Josef Fruehwald created an R script to tap into local weather sensors to keep track ... [Read more...]

Tracking Hurricane Sandy with Open Data and R

October 29, 2012 | David Smith

Hurricane Sandy is shaping up to be a major, and very dangerous, meteorological event for the US's East coast. Naturally, everyone is looking for the latest information and forecasts. Fortunately, the wealth of public meteorological data available on the open web, combined with real-time on-the-ground updates via social media, means ... [Read more...]

The role of Statistics in the Higgs Boson discovery

July 3, 2012 | David Smith

News is starting to leak that the Large Hadron Collider may have accomplished its primary mission of confirming the existence of the hypothesised and heretofore elusive subatomic particle, the Higgs Boson. And sure, billions of Euros worth of state-of-the-art high-energy machinery and an army of experimental and theoretical physicists probably ... [Read more...]

NYT charts the Facebook IPO with R

May 23, 2012 | David Smith

In conjunction with Facebook's record-setting IPO last Thursday, the New York Times created an infographic to put the size of the offer in context with other recent IPOs. A detail of the graphic as it appeared in the print edition appears below: ChartsNThings gives a fascinating peek into the weeklong ... [Read more...]

The grade level of Congress speeches, analyzed with R

May 22, 2012 | David Smith

As widely reported by CNN, the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, the sophistication of speeches by US politicians has declined in recent years, dropping from an 11th-grade level in 2005 to a 10th-grade level today. The reports are based on an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, based on textual analysis of ... [Read more...]

Mariano Rivera’s baseball prowess, illustrated with R

May 11, 2012 | David Smith

Kevin Quealy, graphics editor at the New York Times, has published another fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the Times creates data visualizations for print and online. In his latest post, he looks at how a visualization of the Yankee's Mariano Rivera performance compared to other Major League Baseball pitchers was ... [Read more...]

Bigger data, better intelligence for government

March 28, 2012 | David Smith

Tomorrow (at 2PM Eastern on Thursday), the White House White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will host a 90-minute forum on Challenges and Opportunities in Big Data. You can watch the event live at the previous link, and see federal government science heads from OSTP, NSF, NIH, DoE, ... [Read more...]

Kony 2012: How to weaken your argument with charts

March 12, 2012 | David Smith

If the goal of the Invisible Children campaign, which has received millions of dollars of contributions since the Kony 2012 video went viral, is to convince us that the money is being put to humanitarian efforts, they could do a lot better than this chart: Putting 37% of expenses into programs in ... [Read more...]

Bad Science at Strata 2012

March 1, 2012 | David Smith

Ben Goldacre, the physician and biostatistician behind the always-excellent Bad Science column in the Guardian, gave a barnburner of a talk at Strata 2012 yesterday, "The Information Architecture of Medicine is Broken". For anyone not aware of the problems caused by publication bias in clinical trials (for example, ineffective drugs with ... [Read more...]

R charts used for analysis at Politico

February 10, 2012 | David Smith

Zack Abrahamson, the "data whiz" at political analysis site Politico, is apparently an R user. Politico's Feb 10 2012 chart of the day clearly uses the ggplot2 graphics package and (quoting Politico) looks into the disenchanted slice of the GOP that’s not engaged with its party’s primary. And that slice ... [Read more...]

R Chart featured in Facebook IPO

February 2, 2012 | David Smith

Page 7 of Facebook's 213-page S-1 filing for their record-breaking IPO includes the following chart, under the headline: "Our Mission: To make the world more open and connected". This chart was created using the R language and Hadoop by Facebook intern Paul Butler. (Thanks to the blog IOER Tools for first ... [Read more...]

NYT uses R to map the 1%

January 17, 2012 | David Smith

Last Saturday, the New York Times published a feature article on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. The on-line version of the article included interactive features like this interactive map showing where your household ranks in the country and in local regions. The print edition, however, included some different (and necessarily static) ... [Read more...]

Propagation of the news of OBL’s death via Twitter

May 6, 2011 | David Smith

SocialFlow's blog has a great case study today on how news from a single tweet -- in this case, speculation made an hour before the President's announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed -- can propagate through social networks. At 10:24 p.m. EST on Sunday May 1, Keith Urbahn tweeted: "... [Read more...]

How to load your iPhone location data into R

April 22, 2011 | David Smith

Earlier this week, data scientists Pete Warden and Alasdair Allen reported that iPhones and cell-enabled iPads keep an internal log of the devices location, which is accessible from the backup that iTunes creates when you sync the device. (Update Apr 27: Apple responds that the locations are those of nearby cell ... [Read more...]

Visualizing tax brackets

April 15, 2011 | David Smith

With Tax Day fast approaching here in the US, there's been a lot of discussion about tax policy and in particular the tax rates paid by the highest income earners. Like in many countries, here the income tax system is bracketed: Tax Bracket Single Married Filing Jointly 10% Bracket $0 – $8,375 $0 – $16,750 15% Bracket $8,375 – $34,000 $16,750 – $68,000 25% Bracket $34,000 – $82,400 $68,000 – $137,300 28% ... [Read more...]

The Egyptian Revolution, in tweets

February 16, 2011 | David Smith

Twitter played a significant role in the recent uprising in Egypt, with protesters communicating via tweets marked with the #25bahman hastag (February 14 in the arabic calendar) to plan and rally for the demonstration. Michael Bommarito downloaded all such tweets and plotted their frequency over time using R's ggplot2 library: Not ... [Read more...]

Airport security: science vs backlash

November 19, 2010 | David Smith

The United States has recently introduced millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray scanners to the security screening process in many airports, prompting a backlash in some quarters. Much of the opposition is centered around the invasion of privacy: the scanners generate an image of the traveller's naked body. There are also ... [Read more...]
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