• ThumbnailIt’s a new year, and that means it’s time to start getting excited about another SkepchickCon! As you’ll remember, last year was pretty sweet, what with our Science Salons, our interactive Sandbox activities, our […]

    • 1) The donation form and receipt say “SkepchickCon 2014”. Shouldn’t this be 2015?

      2) Also, is Skepchick LLC (the organization receiving the donations) a 501(c)3? (In other words, are donations tax-deductible?)

      3) Buzzed Aldrins are tiny and delicious. This makes it easy to drink hundreds of them. DAMHIKT.

    • Thanks! I must have deleted it while changing the order of the links. Fixed now.

  • ThumbnailRoman Bystrianyk and Suzanne Humphries have a cherry to pick with proponents of vaccination. Their article on the measles vaccine was recently published on Health Impact News’s Vaccine Impact website under a […]

    • Our Skeptics in the Pub reboot on Monday watched Invisible Threat, a DVD about vaccines made by some amazing high school students. They included the first chart (or one very similar) and explained exactly what was wrong with it (conflating morbidity and mortality). Well worth watching if you get the chance. (You can download it for $5 from Vimeo; I would try to watch it with some friends or a class or other group so you can discuss it. There’s a lot of material to digest in 40 minutes.)

      BTW, we had 12 people show up in the midst of a blizzard (12″ of snow, single digit temps), so this is definitely a topic a lot of people are interested in.

    • Mr. Spock has got his shots. Your kids should too. It’s the logical thing to do.

      Mr. Spock Wants You to Vaccinate Your Kids

  • ThumbnailSo you want to make a point about Americans’ skewed perceptions of race?

    Step One: Don’t use a racist chart. Even if your heart is in the right place. Even if you really, really didn’t mean to be racist while […]

    • Okay, so according to that chart, am I white, black, Hispanic, or Muslim? I mean, I know, mitochondrial haplogroup X is related to Kurds, but still…

    • Of course, the number of Americans who think ‘Muslim’ is a race is significant. Along the the flat-earthers and climate change deniers.

      Still, wow! No Asians, including South Asians, no non-Hispanic Native Americans….? Who took the survey? Who were the people questioned? Hobby Lobby shoppers?

      • I can’t help but point out that James Abourezk and Darrell Issa are both Arab Christians. (And that Christians are one of the groups targeted by ISIS.)

        Then again, they probably don’t even realize not all Middle Eastern ethnic groups can be called Jews or Arabs.

        In other MENA news, fuck yeah!

    • The silliness of the chart is astonishing. Aside from the fact that, biologically speaking, race is a bogus concept, neither Muslim nor Hispanic is a race by any reasonable definition. Asian is usually considered a race, and in my neighborhood a highly visible one. Some of the Asians are Muslims, and some aren’t.
      There might be some value in a good study of general perceptions of the distributions of different groups versus the statistical reality. This is either not a good study or a terrible presentation of the data, probably both. And a pie chart is only useful if it includes ALL the possibilities and the possible groups don’t overlap. Aside from those issues, it’s great.

    • I actually thought the research showed that in general most people overestimate the percentage of the population of their own ethnic group. It makes sense when you consider the fact that we live in segregated areas, so the people you live around are likely to look just like you.

      A lot (A LOT) of the Hispanic population is going to overlap with the “white” population since the U.S. census includes Hispanic in “White” with hispanic being a separate question. White Non-Hispanic was 64% in the 2010 census, so it looks pretty clear to me that about 10 percentage points of the “White” are overlap.

      Also, the Muslim population overlaps a ton with both White and Black. I mean, perhaps the person making the chart meant “Arab.” However, in the 2010 Census Arab Americans self identified as about 0.5% of the population, half of the 1% claimed here, but perhaps he rounded up? Muslims as a religion do make up about 1% of the population, but even if you assumed all American Arabs were Muslim (hahahaha yah no but just role with me here), then the other half of all Muslims still overlap with the other ethnic groups. Not to mention there are plenty of Asian Muslims who apparently are imaginary according to these charts.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 1 month ago

    You’re right. It does look like that. I found it such a confusing mess to look at that I didn’t even draw that conclusion, but that is exactly what it looks like, Very misleading in a chart people see only briefly.

  • ThumbnailThe State of the Union now comes with full-color illustrations, which is nice for the kids, Powerpoint addicts, and anyone who wants to add another layer to the SOTU drinking game. Don’t worry, you can just create […]

    • The fraction of income chart makes it look as if, at some point around 1990, the percentage of income of the top 1% actually overtook that of the bottom 90%. Incredibly misleading.

      • You’re right. It does look like that. I found it such a confusing mess to look at that I didn’t even draw that conclusion, but that is exactly what it looks like, Very misleading in a chart people see only briefly.

    • That Iran chart’s like something on Buzzfeed. But yeah, most of those are simple things.

    • “Up to” is only my second favorite spin phrase. My favorite is “up to … and more!” (it always has to include the exclamation point), because that not only includes $5.50, but also $550 trillionquadrillionquintillion. Phil Rizzuto used to advertise some high-interest loan company on late night TV that could lend you up to 30 thousand, 40 thousand, 50 thousand or more! Could I borrow <twist-pinkie-at-corner-of-mouth>ONE MILLION DOLLARS? </twist-pinkie-at-corner-of-mouth>

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 1 month ago

    If time passes in the forest but there’s nothing around to measure it, do I still hate Mondays?

  • ThumbnailShocking news from the unironically named website The Mind Unleashed: “MIT Researcher’s New Warning: At Today’s Rate, Half Of All U.S. Children Will Be Autistic By 2025.”*

    Autism: a fate worse than death for […]

    • Bonus benefit of getting rid of your calendars and clocks: you won’t age!

    • “Is it the use of two y-axes whose values can be adjusted to make the data fit as closely as you like?” Just elaborating on this point a bit, both overlaid graphs show approximately exponential growth. Lots of things show approximately exponential growth. E.g., Moore’s Law describes the change in processing power of computer chips as exponential growth. And, when rescaling the y-axis, all exponential growth curves can be made to look the same.* So I could construct a similar graph to show that the rise in autism follows a similar curve to the rise in computer processing power, and by similar reasoning argue that faster computer chips are causing autism. This point should be extremely obvious to any research scientist, so creating a graph like this one displays a willingness to use numbers to distort rather than inform. It is not inconceivable that chronic low doses of environmental toxins like pesticides could contribute to autism, but this is not evidence for that, and I’m not aware of any such evidence that is actually based in solid research rather than irresponsible speculation.

      * Explanation: the general exponential growth formula is y = b * e^t, where y is the response variable, t is the independent variable (usually time), and b is a growth constant. Rescaling the y axis of any graph is equivalent to replacing y with c*y, where c is the amount by which to rescale. But this gives c*y = b * e^t, or y = (b/c) * e^t. Since b and c are both constants, this is the same as the original growth formula with a new value for b. So if I have two approximately exponentially growing phenomena with growth constants b1 and b2, I can always make them look the same by rescaling the graph of the second one by c such that c = b1/b2.

      (BTW, sorry if there’s a double post on this — the site is really slow and from Cloudflare it looks like Skepchick might be getting DDOSed, so I’m not sure if my first post took.)

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 2 months ago

    I wasn’t talking about validation. Takers’ self-assessment just points to the flaws in these types of tests. I’m not sure how they would look at the correlation over large samples without getting some kind of self-assessment from the takers, though.

    And the MBTI does have a problem with consistency over time, largely because it sets up…[Read more]

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 2 months ago

    I don’t fit neatly into a quadrant if I take everything into account (even with the original chart). I suspect I’m the hamster inside running on the wheel.

    You raise an interesting question, though, about self-identified potato cannibalism.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 2 months ago

    The strict dichotomies of the MB types are the worst flaw, as though we all always fit into perfect categories, unchanging, discontinuous. When I took it in high school, the teachers used it similarly, to put us in diverse groups for projects. I don’t remember it making any difference at all. We were always changing groups for different projects,…[Read more]

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 2 months ago

    I feel that answering the Great Potato Question only leads to further questions. If I am a potato, what kind? Red, new, Idaho? If I am not a potato, am I a squash, a sandwich, a Pez dispenser?

  • ThumbnailI took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality inventory, in high school, and when I got my horoscope results, I admit that I was pretty amazed at how well it described me—and, apparently, Hitler.

    Then I […]

    • I am ok with *maybe* being a potato. The existential uncertainty is riveting and makes me want to write poetry to express the unending struggle of my inner possible-potato demons.

      • I feel that answering the Great Potato Question only leads to further questions. If I am a potato, what kind? Red, new, Idaho? If I am not a potato, am I a squash, a sandwich, a Pez dispenser?

    • When I was a ICI sponsored student I got sent on a course where they gave us a Brigs-Myers type test then put us into two role playing sessions. In the first they put the like personality types together, in the second they had balanced teams.

      The bogosity of the test was evident from the names they gave the groups, ‘Resource Investigator’, ‘Chairman’, ‘Completer-Finisher’, ‘Plant’. I scored in the last one which was an incredibly silly and demeaning name to give to the group that the engineers fit into. At the time the test was written, engineering had second rank status in the professions. In a company built on engineering like ICI, engineers were never second rank, most of the senior managers were engineers. The principal objective of the event was to recruit engineers because they were in greatest demand.

      So anyway, the point of the experiment was meant to be that people are happiest working in a balanced team. And that was true for five out of the six teams because all the imaginative types that drive a project along were in the ‘plant’ group. And we were having a great time thank you very much. So the intended lesson was a flop.

      When it came to the second exercise, found the group rather dull and just wanted to get through it as fast as possible. So I dropped down into my chairman persona despite the fact that I (and everyone else pretty much) had essentially scored zero on it.

      • The strict dichotomies of the MB types are the worst flaw, as though we all always fit into perfect categories, unchanging, discontinuous. When I took it in high school, the teachers used it similarly, to put us in diverse groups for projects. I don’t remember it making any difference at all. We were always changing groups for different projects, and it was a class of motivated students who got along well, so any group was fine. The idea of it being used in employment is pretty scary to me.

    • I’m a corporatist Summer Xander non-Potatohead. No wonder I didn’t fit in well with the rest of my college’s SDS chapter steering committee. I guess I should have eaten more starchy breakfast food (i.e. home-fries.)

      • I don’t fit neatly into a quadrant if I take everything into account (even with the original chart). I suspect I’m the hamster inside running on the wheel.

        You raise an interesting question, though, about self-identified potato cannibalism.

    • The more I look at that original chart, the less sense it makes. Thank you.

    • They validate personality tests by the takers’ self-assessment? I thought it was by looking at answers’ correlation over large samples, and at individual takers’ consistency over time.

      • I wasn’t talking about validation. Takers’ self-assessment just points to the flaws in these types of tests. I’m not sure how they would look at the correlation over large samples without getting some kind of self-assessment from the takers, though.

        And the MBTI does have a problem with consistency over time, largely because it sets up personality types as dichotomous and discontinuous. If you barely fit into the E category on one test, you could easily fit into the I category on the next, for example. This paper talks a bit about the problems: http://melindabrackett.com/Myers%20Briggs%20article.pdf

    • So, being a mathematician, I guess that makes me an extremely conservative fascist?

    • Social conservatism and the Christian right are in the quadrant associated with rationalism?
      OH! So is anti-environmentalism!
      Yeah, seems legit.

  • ThumbnailThis week’s chart is not recent, but I missed it the first time around, and it’s so terrifically bad, I have to share it in case you missed it too.

    The chart depicts election results from the 2013 presidential […]

    • Nice takedown Melanie!
      I love the way Moros in his photograph appears like a shining white angel while Radonski is made to look like the dark horse.

    • It’s a perfectly cromulent chart. It’s just been cropped. The bottom 4 feet 2 inches (1.27 meters) have been chopped off*. Can’t you tell from the vertical scale on the side? Oh, err, never mind. No vertical scale. But the numbers make it mathy. Don’t they? Huh?

      [*] You just need to get a new 132″ monitor (like they use at sports stadiums) to see the whole thing.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 3 months ago

    Holy crap, the clone conspiracy goes deeper than I thought. I am in my forties, so I think I can safely say I don’t have a clone out there, or that if I do, it’s based on early seventies technology and I’ll spot it a mile away by its 8-track player.

  • ThumbnailAll over the media, people are shaking their virtual fists at kids today for undervoting in the US midterm elections.

    Clearly, millennials are too busy taking selfies, texting, and playing on their Ataris or […]

    • Having just stumbled into the swing space (I didn’t intend to, but I wasn’t paying attention and forgot to die in time), I want to know: Is it good or bad that 60 is the new 65? I don’t care about elections, I just want to know how does this affect ME?

      BTW, the most important reason for voting is to prevent your reactionary future clone from going back and voting in elections you missed. If you voted, your name would be checked off and they wouldn’t let the clone vote.

      If you think back and hate your younger self, remember that means your older self hates you too, and your younger self would hate you if they knew you. So it is important to undermine their votes by voting first. This is the origin of the phrase “vote early and often”. If you’ve ever shown up at the polls and discovered they already had you checked off, this means your future clone got there first. Don’t let this happen; he’s an asshole! Did you know that McGovern actually won 39 states in 1972 (and we had decades of peace and prosperity, amnesty, acid and abortion), until the Reaganite clones reversed history?

      • Holy crap, the clone conspiracy goes deeper than I thought. I am in my forties, so I think I can safely say I don’t have a clone out there, or that if I do, it’s based on early seventies technology and I’ll spot it a mile away by its 8-track player.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 3 months ago

    I’m pretty sure “Gubment” is also acceptable, although I believe vampire tea partiers prefer the “v” forms. They have trouble with the “b” sound.

  • ThumbnailSo you want to make a deliberately misleading chart by doctoring a genuine one and you don’t really care how fake it looks because OBAMA?

    Maybe you have a poor-resolution monitor from 1993 and think a screen […]

    • I think you’re onto something. Because Halloween eve and werewolves are kinda like vampires, I tried looking at the chart in the mirror, but COULDN’T SEE anything AT all!!! All I could see was my face and the other side of THE bathroom! NO chart!!11!!111 So I went back to my desk and looked at IT again on my pc. The top AXIS of this vampire chart is “CONTROL BUDGET” Its written right there!

      Its not a bad chart because it DOESN’T MAKE any sense at all. ITs a BAD CHART because it was made by VAMPIRES.

      PS. The chart has an AXIS. Hitler led the AXIS. Coincidence? I think [email protected]@[email protected]!!!

      PPS. “Guv’ment”… My brother once wanted to attend a Tea Party rally, but he couldn’t figure out the right way to misspell Gubbermont on his “Keep your Meddling Goobermunt Hands Off My Medicare” sign. I think he forgot to include an apostrophe.

    • Melanie, that’s a pretty evil chart alright.
      Don’t stare too long at it, Demons will come to drag you down to the Pit.

    • That is one weird fucking graph. The X-axis doesn’t exist, but the graph still depicts movement in the X-axis and the Y-axis has two separate legends, tracked by the same graph lines.

      Even internally, the axes make no sense. The time axis tracks presidents as equal intervals, despite having served for different time spans. The money axis can’t decide whether the graph lines are equal or not and the numbers on the axis explicitly contradict the helpful tags on the lines themselves.

      Finally, the graph seems to claim that Nixon spent less than $0 on drug enforcement. Maybe there was a federal budget item for promotion of drug use?

  • I don’t know about you, but the first question I ask when hearing about a tragedy on another continent is WHAT ABOUT ME?

    So naturally, when I read this Forbes article, “4000 Deaths And Counting: The Ebola Epidemic In 4 Charts” (the 4000 referring to deaths in West Africa alone), I thought immediately of the United States and my own safety, much like the bulk of the commenters on the article.

    Perhaps the most shocking illustration of the danger to me personally is the article’s “Ebola deaths in West Africa” chart, showing the cumulative death toll over the months since the epidemic started this year for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. I mean, if the situation is getting worse in Africa, it can only mean that a US epidemic is just around the corner (if we ignore minor details like disease transmission and other biological facts, how probability works, differences in culture, healthcare, and infrastructure, etc.). Oh, and it’s terrible news for Africa too, of course.

    Perhaps JV Chamary, the author’s article, thought that a little visual exaggeration of the death toll in West Africa would lead to increased worldwide concern for and action on behalf of Africans in the affected areas who are actually experiencing this real horrible situation rather than concern for a highly unlikely hypothetical danger in the US. But highly unlikely isn’t the same as impossible. I mean, it’s highly unlikely that a piece of satellite will fall from the sky, bounce on my neighbor’s trampoline, and shoot right into my bedroom window at night, impaling me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sleep in a titanium pod JUST IN CASE. Wouldn’t I feel foolish if I didn’t and then it happened?

    So what’s the visual exaggeration I’m talking about? In the chart below, the deaths are cumulative, meaning that each successive month includes not only that month’s new deaths but the total deaths so far from previous months. So the death toll will always rise except in months when there are zero deaths (but even those months would still appear to be showing deaths).

    Forbes Ebola deaths chart

    Ebola deaths in West Africa (Data: WHO / Chart CC BY 4.0: JV Chamary / Source: http://onforb.es/1sCVxE1)

    For example, below is a chart of the cumulative deaths in 2011* from what the CDC categorizes as “Exposure to other and unspecified animate mechanical forces,” which most likely refers to cyborgs (although other theories about what an “animate mechanical force” could possibly be are welcome in the comments).

    Cumulative cyborg deaths chart

    But if we chart each month with only that month’s death total, the chart looks like this:

    Cyborg deaths per month chart

    Cyborg deaths did in fact increase, as shown in the first chart, but only after decreasing, and the per month chart shows that the increase is not quite as alarming as shown in the first chart.

    Still, we had more deaths from “Exposure to other and unspecified animate mechanical forces” in 2011 in the US than we’ve had from Ebola this year, so I would not rule out cyborgs as being an even more significant threat to all of our lives than Ebola is. Or a cyborg with Ebola. Fortunately, we can counter both threats by moving into underground bunkers. Except for the danger from giant moles mutated by eating GMO corn. But that’s obviously ridiculous.

    *The CDC Wonder database includes data only through 2011 because they are already overrun by cyborgs clearly attempting to keep us in the dark about causes of death until it’s too late.

    • The CDC are such liars! The cyborgs are merely “converting” people! That’s way different than death (and I assure you, much, much worse than death.)

    • This is why many sources are also presenting logarithmic presentation of the same data to demonstrate that the increase in total cases and deaths over the last few months has been exponential, even though there are obvious fluctuations and surges in the spread of the disease; a couple of months ago about 25 people were dying every day; then a month ago it was about 50 p.d.; now there are about 100 deaths p.d., and the WHO is warning that the inability of Liberian authorities to manage contact tracing may mean the surge in cases there might be under-reported.

    • Melanie Mallon,

      Oh now, our machines will kill us much fast than Ebola. It will be worse than Terminator, Terminator 2, Terminator 3, Terminator whatever! We are all going to die!!!! :O

      Speaking of bad charts, here are some really funny ones guys.

      Atheism causes obesity, teen misbehavior, contraception and sharks!

      Atheism causes obesity, teen misbehavior, contraception and sharks!

      • “It be Shark Week!
        It be Shark Week!
        It be Shark Week all week through
        Chomp! Chomp!”
        Marian Call

        Also, the Cyborg chart only includes mechanical force. This includes crushing, explosions and collapsing buildings, but death rays are explicitly excluded.

    • So, in that graph with cumulative deaths from ebola, what happened in mid-September? Did some of the dead people come back to life?

      • My guess would be that something caused a hiccup at the Liberian Bureau of Statistics (I wonder what that could have been?)

      • Lukas, the medical diagnosis of Ebola (as a process that requires blood analysis) lags behind the number of people who present with symptoms resembling Ebola – some people turn out to have ordinary influenza or some other viral infection. Having said that, the apparent decrease in the number of deaths in Liberia around mid-September is probably a statistical artifact, perhaps due to changing the way the data is reported by the regular governmental Situation Reports – on Wikipedia from 14 September onwards they are adding together confirmed, probable, and suspected deaths to get the total figure. However they are doing that, the disease is outstripping their ability to monitor and track it.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 4 months ago

    Lime-A-Rita + All Night Long is pretty much the most sadistic combination I have every heard. I’ve never liked that song, in part because a mild dislike gets magnified by how it gets stuck in my head so easily. Ugh.

  • Melanie posted a new activity comment 3 years, 4 months ago

    Ack! Thank you! No, that was a work-marathon-induced brain flip. Corrected.

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