Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nancy Pelosi Makes Interesting Plots.

This is not a political post! Only one I hope everyone finds humorous.

Every scientist has to learn to make good plots to help the reader understand what is going on.

No matter what your political preference is, you have to admit Nancy Pelosi probably had a little extra fun with this one.  From TPM:

Anyone want to guess the error bars on these claims?

I'd give her extra credit if she could write down the equation for the Gaussian that fits this.


  1. Oh man, what a great plot! Although I do have one question. On the y-axis is "Jobs lost." So I suppose that in Nov 09 and Dec 07 were the worst months. Nobody likes to have 1, let alone 10000 jobs lost, right? So it looks to me like Bush and Obama were both doing a great job, and it is getting worse. After all, -80,000 jobs lost, is 80,000 jobs gained, right? Or do I need to go back to high school?

  2. jmb275,

    Yes the y axis is "Jobs lost." Yes, I do believe a correct reading is it is getting worse each month, though I think she is trying to convey the idea that it is getting worse at a slower rate.

    I'm not going to go into various ways I could critique this for better or worse as I don't want to be political.

    But I did want to say I got a chuckle the first time I saw this.

  3. I would pay serious money to see a politician make a graph with error bars or a best-fit Gaussian. Amazingly it is very much a Gaussian curve - the central limit theorem wins again!

  4. Nick,

    Yes, the central limit theorem always seems to win as does its statistical friend the second law of thermodynamics.

    Yeah, error bars would be helpful. I remember in a statistics class we analyzed the study that led Duracell to make some claim like "Our batteries last 20% longer" or something like that. It turns out the error bars on the study were such that they really should not have been making such a claim.

  5. Joe,
    In this case I'm not suspicious about the validity of the data - it comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics so I'm sure they've done a solid job with the numbers - but I'm skeptical that the motive here was to present data effectively or rather to simply say "It's Bush's fault" in a moderately technical-looking way.

  6. Nick,

    I'm sure you are right. I'm sure the intent was to blame Bush and make it appear as if Obama's stuff is working.


To add a link to text:
<a href="URL">Text</a>