# Tag: statistics

There are tons of examples of statistics being misused or misrepresented by the media and politicians (among others). I'm going to try and collect examples as I find them so that I don't have to search for them at the last minute.

I saw this image floating around the internet (not sure who originally took the screenshot):

This graph is misleading because it exaggerates the resulting increase in tax rate by not showing having the Y-axis display zero. Displaying the graph only from 34% and up makes the tax rate after January 1, 2013 to be 5.6 times what the rate currently is. In fact, the actual tax rate after January 1, 2013 is about 1.13 times what it currently is if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire. This is what a more accurate graph would look like:

Disturbingly, when I went to make the above in LibreOffice Calc the default scale was 32-40% (same in Microsoft Excel). While there are times when displaying zero is not necessary, not including zero magnifies the relative differences among the categories (Lemon & Tyagi, 2009). Kozak (2011) gives some recommendations about when including and excluding zero is appropriate; essentially, if zero is meaningful in the context of the data it should be included.

• Kozak, M. (2011). When should zero be included on a scale showing magnitude? Teaching Statistics, 33(2), 53–58. (link to abstract)
• Lemon, J. and Tyagi, A. (2009). The fan plot: A technique for displaying relative quantities and differences. Statistical Computing and Graphics Newsletter, 20(1), 8–10. (link to full article) [Note: I don't know if this article is peer-reviewed, but it is a publication of the ASA, so there is some weight to it.]

I can't believe I forgot to include this one in the statistics comic master post considering I've used it on an exam before.

Hell, my eighth grade science class managed to conclusively reject it just based on a classroom experiment. It's pretty sad to hear about million-dollar research teams who can't even manage that.
"Null Hypothesis" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: hypothesis testing; null hypothesis; study; reject;

Below are comics related to probability and statistics that I've found. These prove useful for lecture slides, homework assignments, exams, etc. While I certainly prefer comics under open content licenses, I'll post any comics here for which I can obtain permission to do so. While the 'for educational purposes' fair use doctrine should allow one to use a wide variety of comics in materials restricted to students, this public blog doesn't seem to count for posting comics like Dilbert without paying a license fee (and so comics that are in circulation and are appropriate for this page probably will not end up here).

Below are comics, with the best attribution I can find, and organized by topic. If I find more comics, I'll include them in their own post and update this one. I'll try to include comics that are actually enjoyable and not just incidentally related to statistics. (For example, "Probability" on xkcd.com is certainly related to probability but is also appropriately somber. There is also a seemingly endless supply of humorous charts/graphs available online that aren't inherently statistical.)

Statistical Literacy

Copyright Zach Weiner (SMBC). Used with permission.
keywords: statistical literacy; terrorists; airplanes; texting; texting and driving; rare events;

Probability

infinite time is distinct from infinity time, which is actually what i like to shout in a deep baritone just before kissing someone

"you can't see it, but in the last panel all the dinosaurs have had DIFFERENT BREAKFASTS." - Copyright 2005 by Ryan North, Dinosaur Comics
keywords: probability; expectation; impossible; long-run;

RFC 1149.5 specifies 4 as the standard IEEE-vetted random number.
"Random Number" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com

you can show this comic to chronic gamblers and they will PUNCH YOU IN THE NECK
"gambling makes you appear more attractive in the eyes of women" - Copyright 2004 by Ryan North, Dinosaur Comics
keywords: probability; Gambler's Fallacy; dice; luck;

The chances of 25 heads in a row are 1 in 33 million, which is still 6 times as likely as winning the Powerball jackpot. So, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'
"#76 Dumb Luck" - Copyright 2008-2012, Tree Lobsters
keywords: gambling; Gambler's Fallacy; coin; coin flip; probability; luck;

'Dude, wait -- I'm not American! So my risk is basically zero!'
"Conditional Risk" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: probability; conditional probability; descriptive statistics; printing uses lots of ink;

Freestyle rapping is basically applied Markov chains.
"90's Flowchart" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: flowchart; Markov chain; probability;

Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.
"Sports" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: randomness; random number generator; sports;

Descriptive Statistics

... okay, but because you said that, we're breaking up.
"Boyfriend" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: boxplot; box plot; box and whisker plot; statistical significance; outlier;

Someday I'll be rich enough to hire Nate Silver to help make all my life decisions. 'Should I sleep with her?' 'Well, I'm showing a 35% chance it will end badly.'
"Election" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: election; poll; margin of error;
(Note that while this is out of date now, the copyright license allows for the comic to be edited: it could be updated when used to show the next presidential election cycle to maintain relevance.)

"No. 974" - Copyright CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 by David Morgan-Mar, irregularwebcomic.net
keywords: Poisson distribution; histogram;

Association

Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there'.
"Correlation" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: correlation; causation;

The truth is that both global warming and bad science headlines are caused by an global decrease in hat-wearing. I read it on the internet, so it must be true.
keywords: correlation; causation; media;

The Overreactington Municipal School Board has voted overwhelmingly to remove all the other thing from its educational facilities.
"#361 This, That & The Other Thing" - Copyright 2008-2012, Tree Lobsters
keywords: correlation; causation; media;

Statistical Inference (Hypothesis Testing and Confidence Intervals)

Hell, my eighth grade science class managed to conclusively reject it just based on a classroom experiment. It's pretty sad to hear about million-dollar research teams who can't even manage that.
"Null Hypothesis" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: hypothesis testing; null hypothesis; study; reject;

'So, uh, we did the green study again and got no link. It was probably a--' 'RESEARCH CONFLICTED ON GREEN JELLY BEAN/ACNE LINK; MORE STUDY RECOMMENDED!'
"Significant" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: hypothesis testing; Type I error; newspaper; p-value;

"No. 2653" - Copyright CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 by David Morgan-Mar, irregularwebcomic.net
keywords: bootstrap; bootstrapping; Poisson distribution; stochastic process;

Regression Analysis

By the third trimester, there will be hundreds of babies inside you.
"Extrapolating" - Copyright CC BY-NC 2.5 by Randall Munroe, xkcd.com
keywords: extrapolation; regression;