The Armstrong Doping Scandal

All major sports eventually have a big scandal seemingly about drugs. Here’s looking at you, baseball and Manny Ramirez (see the Mitchell Report). But this time it’s cycling’s turn. Here’s looking at you, Lance Armstrong. The New York Times published a timeline of exactly how the USADA alleges Armstrong ran a team-wide doping programme. It should be noted that while Armstrong denies the allegations, he is not contesting them.

The timeline
The timeline

Credit for the piece goes to Joe Ward and Alan McLean.

Absentee Ballots

This graphic comes from a set by the New York Times that looks at absentee and mail-in ballots, which are particularly popular in western states. The representation of the absentee ballot from Minnesota in 2008 is then examined to see which areas were the reasons for discounted ballots.

Minnesota's 2008 ballot
Minnesota's 2008 ballot

Follow the directions to the best of your abilities, people. Make your vote count.

The Drop in the Unemployment Rate and How to Spin It

On Friday we received the monthly jobs report. And the furore that arose with it. Principally the anger stemmed from right-leaning commentators who believed that the non-partisan Bureau of Labor Statistics, a government agency tasked with collecting data on employment among other metrics, “cooked the books”/ “massaged the figures”/ flat-out lied to show a significant drop in the unemployment rate that could not be attributed to people who had stopped looking for work—a cause of some earlier drops over the last few years. As someone who works with data originally collected from national statistics offices across the world on a daily basis, those claims touched a nerve. But I shall leave that rant for another time.

Instead let’s look at the New York Times piece that quickly followed on the outrage of fools. We can look at and analyse the data in different ways—the origin of the phrase lies, damned lies, and statistics—and surely the Republican and Democratic parties would do just that. They did. This New York Times piece shows how that can be—and was—done. It involves points of reference and context.

First the facts:

The Facts
The Facts

Then how the Democrats spin them:

Spin it from the left…
Spin it from the left…

Finally how the Republicans spin them:

Then spin it from the right.
Then spin it from the right.

But the facts themselves do not lie. 114,000 non-farm jobs were added to payrolls. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8%, the lowest rate since January 2009.

Credit for the piece goes to Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, Amanda Cox and Kevin Quealy.

The Politics of Beer

This Friday at Happy Hour as you sip your pint, are you going to wonder what your beer choice says about your politics? Okay, probably not. But you could. And if you did, this chart from the National Journal would help you identify just what your drink is saying.

Politics of beer
Politics of beer

Is your favourite on the chart? Do you have to reevaluate your choices for November? Or whether or not to go vote?

Credit for the piece goes to Tracey Robinson, NMRPP via the National Journal.

I Gesture Unto Thee…

We are in the home stretch of the presidential campaign and the first of the four debates (three presidential, one vice-presidential) is tonight in Denver, Colorado. Unfortunately debates tend to be less about ideas and more about talking points, gotchas, and zingers. Regardless of the debates’ utility, candidates do not always convey everything they express through words. Sometimes they send a message through their body language. The New York Times looks at a few, what they call, signature gestures used by President Obama and Governor Romney.

Presidential (Candidate) Gestures
Presidential (Candidate) Gestures

The gestures are illustrated and then explained and shown in three examples from the respective candidate’s convention speech. The overall use of the gesture is then indicated in a bar showing how often and when in the speech the gestures were used.

Credit for the piece goes to Aquin G.V., Alan McLean, Archie Tse and Sergio Peçanha.

Uncertain Planet

Someday humanity will find a planet amongst the stars similar in temperament to Earth. One of the best star systems to explore is Gliese 581, a small and faint star some 20 light years away. Calculations show that there are a few planets that could exist in or near what is often called the Goldilocks Zone. The Goldilocks Zone describes the distance from the systems’ star where planets could exist with liquid water. But generally, one needs to take that with a grain of salt. Here in the Sol System, for example, Earth is joined by Venus and Mars. But neither of those planets appear capable of sustaining life at least at present.

The problem with Gliese 581 is that we are not yet certain as to exactly how many exoplanets form the planetary system. It might be four; it might be five. The different schools of thought lead to different conclusions about the possibility of there being liquid water. And life as we know it requires water. The New York Times looked at Gliese 581 earlier this summer and compared the two different orbital models.

4 Exoplanets
4 Exoplanets
5 Exoplanets
5 Exoplanets

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathan Corum.

The Hispanic Vote

People make a great deal about the Hispanic vote and how it will affect the election. In every election I can recall. Granted, that’s only  a few presidential elections and a couple more Congressional mid-terms. But the problem is that Hispanics do not vote. In scientific-ish terms, the Hispanic vote is wasted potential energy—they could make quite the impact, particularly in the south and southwest, arguably too in the larger cities. But to look at where to focus energies at higher efficiencies, i.e. turnout, the New York Times has this graphic looking at the potential for Hispanic votes.

Hispanic Voters
Hispanic Voters

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Quealy.

This Infographic Is Da Bomb

For your Friday comic relief comes the infographic of the week.

The content is serious. But the graphic is laughable at best. And undercuts the message in my opinion. Seriously, it’s like the mobile weapons labs, but worse. All over again.

Isn't the bomb already lit? How does the red line stop it from going off?
Isn't the bomb already lit? How does the red line stop it from going off?

Photo credit goes to Mario Tama at Getty Images, via the Los Angeles Times.

Average Household Spending

This tree map from the Wall Street Journal looks at an interesting subject: average household spending. How much are we spending on housing, on food, on transportation, &c.?

Household spending
Household spending

But I’m not so sure that the main visualisation is necessary. I appreciate the big colour and splashiness, but the space use seems inefficient. Perhaps if the colours had been tied, as is commonly seen, to another variable, the tree map would be more useful. Imagine if the chart looked at the spending value and the average growth over the last ten years, with the year-by-year value still plotted below.