Fudging The Facts: Misinformation Visualization

Fudging The Facts: Misinformation Visualization

Among my many inconsequential but fondly-remembered ideas was about 10 years ago, when for a brief time, I had a blog called “Misinformation Visualization” (subtitle: “Bringing a world of misinformation to your fingertips”). My goal was to present, with a straight face, the kinds of fallacies and illogic masquerading as science and reason I saw all over the web, and to use the best charts and logical-sounding arguments I could think of to come to ridiculous conclusions.

Like a lot of my best ideas, it was timely, and like many of my ideas of any quality, it almost immediately became more work than the joke was worth, and when the novelty had worn off the next morning, I moved on to other things.

However, I’ve always been fond of the idea, and wish I had the kind of free time that would have enabled me to give such a silly and useless undertaking the kind of work and attention it deserved.

Here, for the first time since nobody read them back then, are the first few posts from MisinformationVisualization.com.

    • Election ’12 fact-finding: Has Obama Increased or Decreased Shark Attacks in the US? (141 words) Originally published on MisinformationVisualization.com on Aug 18, 2012

      Here’s something Romney’s attack ads refuse to discuss. According to figures from the nonpartisan American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History, under the policies of George W. Bush, the US had an average of 65% of the world’s shark attacks, dipping below 60% only in 2004, when John Kerry was running. For the first three years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the US average dropped to only 43% of the world’s shark attacks. (Paul Ryan has a plan to end shark attacks by chumming the swimming waters with meat and fresh blood, but Romney has been distancing himself from it.)

      Percentage of Worldwide Shark Attacks Occurring in the US, 2000-2011.
      Percentage of Worldwide Shark Attacks Occurring in the US, 2000-2011. Source: International Shark Attack File

      Please come back, as we will be exploring this data in greater detail in upcoming posts.

    • How To Pick A Better Password (59 words) Originally posted on Misinformationvisualization.com on 12/2/2013

      Buried in this interesting article about password security from the BBC is the tidbit that studies have found that red-haired women tend to pick the most secure passwords; “men with bushy beards or unkempt hair, the worst.”

      So for maximum security, always ask a red-haired woman to pick new account passwords for you.

    • Online Petition Gets Murder Conviction Overturned (154 words) Originally posted on Misinformationvisualization.com on 12/9/2013.

      According to Change.org’s current homepage:

      Family wins release of son from prison! Ryan Ferguson’s family fought for his release from prison for a murder they say he didn’t commit. Ryan’s father, Bill, started a petition asking for Ryan to be freed, and after 250,000 signatures, Ryan’s conviction was overturned.”

      Ferguson was convicted in 2005. His father started an online petition on change.org to get him a new trial. in 2013, after 250,000 signatures, the two main witnesses against him recanted their testimony under oath, and his conviction was overturned!

      It would be interesting if we could test and determine exactly how many petition signatures is the critical number necessary to get a murder conviction overturned, and whether the petition caused the witnesses to recant, or whether the petition alone would have been sufficient to get the conviction reversed even if the witnesses hadn’t recanted.

    • More than Coincidence? The Bushes, the CIA, an inexplicable disease cluster, and a TV show (352 words) Draft - never published

      Over the course of the persidency of George H. W. Bush, both he and first lady Barbara Bush developed Graves' disease, a form of lupus. Doctors estimated the odds of a husband and wife both developing this uncommon and noncommunicable disease at around 1 in 3,000,000. https://web.archive.org/web/20130508015248/http://www.nytimes.com/1991/05/28/science/the-doctor-s-world-a-white-house-puzzle-immunity-ailments.html

      In 1990, the Bushes' dog, Millie, was diagnosed with lupus: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-09-06-mn-1274-story.html

      Preceding that, in 1966, Bush left private business and was elected to his first Federal position in the House of Representatives, then subsequently the Senate. In the early seventies, President Richard Nixon had appointed Bush to chair the Republican Party. From there Bush briefly served as a liaison and effective embassador to China, before being appointed by Gerald Ford as director of the the Central Intelligence agency.

      The CIA is a spy agency.

      In 1966, the same year Bush began his government career, a show debuted in TV. It became very popular and ran for seven years, ending just before Bush gave up chairing the Republican party and returned to Federal government to take the China liaison post.

      The show was about spies. That popular spy show was called "Mission: Impossible".

      "Mission: Impossible", by supposed coincidence starred two men with the same first name, "Peter".

      Peter Graves and Peter Lupus. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060009/

      And yet nobody ever talks about this. We can only speculate on who, exactly, doesn't want it to be known.

      The sole mention I have ever seen about it, anywhere, was in the pages of an old satirical magazine. As always, we have to turn to our comedians to get the real truth.

      Or, maybe not... the name of that satirical magazine was... wait for it... "Spy": (http://books.google.com/books?id=NksQcB4T4nIC&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=bush+millie+lupus+graves+%22mission:+impossible%22&source=bl&ots=6jzZ57OBz0&sig=1IqdVJ4jTYqSAoCbXkeqQfBAyGI&hl=en#v=onepage&q=bush%20millie%20lupus%20graves%20%22mission%3A%20impossible%22&f=false)

    • The Infinity Razor (211 words) Draft - never published

      This is an old favorite of mine that I'm glad to see survives in some form on the web. Close to 20 years ago, The Economist ran an article where they noted an interesting trend: https://web.archive.org/web/20181120231744/https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2006/03/16/the-cutting-edge

      They noted that in it was over 70 years after King Gillette invented the disposable safety razor before marketing geniuses invented the Trac II, with two blades. Only slightly more than 20 years later, the triple-blade Mach3 debuted, followed shortly by the four-blade Quattro and even sooner by the 5-blade Fusion.

      Where their analysis departs from the more pedestrian studies of the subject is the rigor with which they analyzed the trend. By two different curve-fitting methodologies, they found that at the very least, by a simple power law curve, by 2100 we'll be shaving with 14-blade razors. However, by the best curve-fitting, the data appears to be hyperbolic, which proves we are actually approaching a singularity—meaning within just a handful of years [actually 4 years ago, as I post this in 2023 on my new site —Mike] we will all be shaving with the Infinity Razor.

      I hope by then they make a styptic pencil big enough, because I tend to fuck up big time.

  • And that’s it. That’s as far as that idea got before I found something else amusing enough to distract me from posting more of these. Sic transit gloria ideae.