Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty Through Graphical Display

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Princeton University Press, 2009 - Business & Economics - 244 pages

In his entertaining and informative book Graphic Discovery, Howard Wainer unlocked the power of graphical display to make complex problems clear. Now he's back with Picturing the Uncertain World, a book that explores how graphs can serve as maps to guide us when the information we have is ambiguous or incomplete. Using a visually diverse sampling of graphical display, from heartrending autobiographical displays of genocide in the Kovno ghetto to the "Pie Chart of Mystery" in a New Yorker cartoon, Wainer illustrates the many ways graphs can be used--and misused--as we try to make sense of an uncertain world.

Picturing the Uncertain World takes readers on an extraordinary graphical adventure, revealing how the visual communication of data offers answers to vexing questions yet also highlights the measure of uncertainty in almost everything we do. Are cancer rates higher or lower in rural communities? How can you know how much money to sock away for retirement when you don't know when you'll die? And where exactly did nineteenth-century novelists get their ideas? These are some of the fascinating questions Wainer invites readers to consider. Along the way he traces the origins and development of graphical display, from William Playfair, who pioneered the use of graphs in the eighteenth century, to instances today where the public has been misled through poorly designed graphs.

We live in a world full of uncertainty, yet it is within our grasp to take its measure. Read Picturing the Uncertain World and learn how.

 

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Contents

THE MOST DANGEROUS EQUATION
5
Political Issues
21
CURBSTONING IQ AND THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
23
STUMBLING ON THE PATH TOWARD THE VISUAL COMMUNICATION OF COMPLEXITY
31
USING GRAPHS TO SIMPLIFY THE COMPLEX THE MEDICARE DRUG PLAN AS AN EXAMPLE
35
A POLITICAL STATISTIC
39
A CATCH22 IN ASSIGNING PRIMARY DELGATES
47
Educational Testing
53
THE MENDEL EFFECT
148
History
157
TRUTH IS SLOWER THAN FICTION
161
GALTONS NORMAL
168
NOBODYS PERFECT
173
WHEN FORM VIOLATES FUNCTION
179
A GRAPHICAL LEGACY OF CHARLES JOSEPH MINARD TWO JEWELS FROM THE PAST
186
LA DIFFUSION DE QUELQUES IDEES A MASTERS VOICE
193

TESTING THE DISABLED USING STATISTICS TO NAVIGATE BETWEEN THE SCYLLA OF STANDARDS AND THE CHARYBDIS OF COU...
55
ETHNICS BIAS OR STATISTICAL ARTIFACT? FREEDLES FOLLY
63
INSIGNIFICANT IS NOT ZERO MUSING ON THE COLLEGE BOARDS UNDERSTANDING OF UNCERTAINTY
74
Mostly Methodological
83
HOW LONG IS SHORT?
87
IMPROVING DATA DISPLAYS
92
OLD MOTHER HUBBARD AND THE UNITED NATIONS
106
DEPICTING ERROR
121
NUMBERS AND THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST
199
Epilogue
209
Notes
211
References
215
Source Material
225
Index
229
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Howard Wainer is distinguished research scientist at the National Board of Medical Examiners and adjunct professor of statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His many books include Graphic Discovery (Princeton).

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