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Bad Chart Thursday: Reverse Twingineering

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In “Time Magazine and the Impending Twin-pocalypse,” Deek takes apart one of the most amazingly bad Time articles in the history of crap, “The Problem With America’s Twin Epidemic,” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards.

While reading Deek’s sweet, sweet smackdown, my chart-dar went off, for she presented a perfect example of the quintessential bad chart, followed by a chart that shows the data more accurately. What is interesting is that the bad chart she created was her illustration of the biased and incomplete data in the article rather than a chart from the article itself. To make her point, the Time author, Richards, cited only data from particular years to claim that the twin rate has doubled. Deek created this chart based on Richards’s selective use of data.

Graph1-300x272

Deek then created a chart using all the data for the time period through 2012, the most recently available data from the CDC, showing that the rate is not so steep and is starting to plateau.

Graph2b

Now, whether an increase or decrease is bad or good is another issue that Deek addresses better than I ever could. I’m not going to argue that an infestation of twins won’t bring on the apocalypse, or that you shouldn’t live in terror upon seeing any increase at all. I think we all know from documented sitcom history that an epidemic of twins would result in much duplicitous place switching, especially with the known tendency of a twin to make dates with two different people in the same night. Even non-identical twins have an 83% increased likelihood of being vampires, although vampire nurses are of course more likely to be identical.

Vampire_nurses

But whether or not you are or should be building your twin-proof bunker is beside the point here. If you believe you can survive a pack of twins in the wild, then I wish you the best of luck, my friend.

The point here is that a bad chart not only illustrates how a visual representation can be powerfully convincing of something we already believe to be true but that it can also be used to illustrate the ways in which data are misused in writing, sometimes in ways that aren’t as obvious until you see them in contrasting visual form.

For example, it may or may not terrify you to hear that you are 100 PERCENT likely to DIE after being bitten by a twin, whether fraternal or identical.

Twin bite

You may start thinking you should offer your hand for a twin to sniff before you even think about touching it. (Contrary to urban legend, offering a stick of Doublemint gum will not appease them or keep their mouth busy but will in fact be likely to enrage them.)

But what if we present that startling FACT alongside another?

No twin bite

I think my point is clear. Reach out to a twin today. Even if it bites you, you’re still going to die anyway.

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25 Comments

  1. Wow, that was jarring. “Even if it bites you?” I had to check the URL to make sure this was really published on Skepchick. You do know that there are real twins out there who can read this post, right?

    • Not to victim blame, but they should really reconsider the lifestyle they’ve chosen. Don’t want to be mistaken for a vampire? Don’t be a twin. It’s that simple, really.

  2. OK, usually I’m right there with you Melanie but this is beyond the pale.

    If you are bitten by a vampire or even twin vampires, your chances of dying drop to 0% if you are turned. Unless you live next door to Charlie Brewster or something.

    I expected better Skepchick. So sad.

      • I lived in Tucson for 15 years, drove through Yuma once. That was plenty!

        The different paths twins take is really interesting. Atheist and Christian identical twins. OMG, I love it.

    • I’m a twin, too. I didn’t know it until I was at NECSS a couple of years ago and people kept making very strange remarks to me, about things like how much they liked my blog and stuff. Eventually, I figured out they thought I was PZ Myers*. He was there so I asked him if he needed an evil twin. He said no, he was already his own evil twin, but I could be his good twin if I wanted. He didn’t bite me, though.

      So I want to hijack this thread to be about middle-aged, bearded white men and all the prejudice and discrimination we face because people anti-MABWM’s think we all look alike and confuse us all the time. WE ARE NOT TWINS! WE DEMAND RESPECT AS INDIVIDUALS! WE DEMAND COOKIES!** WE DEMAND THE RIGHT NOT TO BE BITTEN BY EVIL VAMPIRE TWINS!***

      [*] I don’t even think we look that much alike.
      [**] It’s almost lunch time, I’m getting hungry.
      [***] Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you’re into.

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