Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beautiful statistics

Hans Rosling's talk about statistics is one of the most visually compelling things I've seen. Don't miss it cause you "hate math" or "don't understand statistics" or you think it might be boring. It's not.

It's also a classic illustration of the the difference between show and tell.


Richard Gibson said...

Wow. Thank you for pointing this out. It's indeed a beautiful way of showing multiple dimensions (time, subsets of populations) of complexly varying statistics, and the man is a remarkable presenter.

As a non-fiction writer (my topic is US dependency on imports for mineral resources in everyday products) I have struggled with how to make "boring" statistics entertaining. While these animations don't lend themselves to traditional print, I can see many applications to web and enhanced electronic texts.

One can see some of the animated graphs in the video at and it turns out Google has a new, similar app for exploring data (why am I not surprised?).

I recognize that I'm in a minority of your readers in having direct and immediate uses for the ideas and approaches highlighted here, but this will be a big, big deal for my own writing - so again thanks very much!

Chris Eldin said...

Quite eye-opening. It's from 2006, I wonder if there is a more recent presentation... Did gaps start to widen again?
I really enjoyed watching this--thanks for sharing.

Sprizouse said...

I've spent a long time around statistics and data and I can tell you that Rosling's being willfully deceptive when he presents world incomes and GDP.

If you look at his graphs starting at about 7:50 you'll notice the scale at the bottom IS NOT linear (the breaks are $1, $10, and $100). If he created a PROPER scale at the bottom with linear distances between those numbers the data would look remarkably different -- probably more like a hockey stick (also note that he does the same thing with GDP).

It's probably comforting to believe global poverty is steadily being eradicated, but Rosling's overselling what's actually happened as well as what's actually happening.

Destroying Angel said...

A mathematician by training, I love this stuff. And Levitt & Dubner are the new sanity checks for statistics. They'd be proud of Rosling.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Wow. That is impressive - not only because he is a dynamic speaker, but he is artfully showing some very dense material. Telling a story, if you will.
Thanks for sharing!

mallard said...

Anyone who found this video interesting should click over to and watch some of the other TED talks. There's a vast library of speakers (every presentation is 18 minutes or less...mostly less) who give compelling talks on everything from the evolution of compassion to parrots and the universe (Douglas Adams!). With few exceptions, they are at least the equal of this presentation.