Sat, Jun 27, 2015

Sleeping Beauties in Philosophy

The other day at Daily Nous, Justin asked about so-called “Sleeping Beauty” papers in Philosophy: “Sleeping Beauty” papers “lie dormant for years before experiencing a sudden spike in citations as they are discovered and recognized as important.” A recent article in Nature discussed scientific papers that have slumbered for decades … Are there sleeping beauty papers in philosophy? (I mean, of course, besides that paper of yours from a few years back that no one has cited…yet.

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

America's Ur-Choropleths

Choropleth maps of the United States are everywhere these days, showing various distributions geographically. They’re visually appealing and can be very effective, but then again not always. They’re vulnerable to a few problems. In the U.S. case, the fact that states and counties vary widely in size and population means that they can be a bit misleading. And they make it easy to present a geographical distribution to insinuate an explanation.

Wed, May 20, 2015

Fake Science, Real Consequences

This morning, Social Science Twitter is consumed by the discovery of fraud in a very widely-circulated political science paper published last year in Science magazine. “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality”, by Michael LaCour and Donald Green, reported very strong and persistent changes in people’s opinion about same-sex marriage when voters were canvassed by a gay person. The paper appeared to have a strong experimental design and, importantly, really good follow-up data.

Fri, May 15, 2015

ATP Shownote Data

The hosts at Accidental Tech Podcast have been thinking about how to broaden their base of listeners to include more women. Good for them. They’re getting plenty of advice (and a certain amount of flak), which I won’t add to. But in general when doing this kind of thing it can be helpful to look back on what your past practice has been. For example, it can be useful to audit one’s own habits of linking and engagement.

Fri, May 15, 2015

UK Election Miscellany

This UK Election data is really too much fun to play around with. Here’s a (probably final) collection of pictures. First, a map of the turnout (that is, the percentage of the electorate who actually voted) by constituency, with London highlighted for a bit more detail. Constituencies by Turnout. There’s a strong suggestion here that Labour areas have lower turnout. Here’s a scatterplot of all seats showing the winning candidate’s share of the electorate plotted against turnout.

Sun, May 10, 2015

Politics and the English Landscape

I’m still playing around with the UK Election data I mapped yesterday, which ended up at the Monkey Cage blog over at the Washington Post. On Twitter, Vaughn Roderick posted a nice comparison showing the proximity of many Labour seats to coalfields. That got me thinking about how much the landscape of England is embedded in its political life. In particular, what do the names of places tell you about their political leanings?

Sat, May 9, 2015

Who Came Second in the UK Election?

The United Kingdom’s election results are being digested by the chattering classes. So, yesterday afternoon I thought I’d see if I could grab the election data to make some pictures. Because the ever-civilized BBC has election web pages with a sane HTML structure, this proved a lot more straightforward than I feared. (Thanks also in no small part to statistician Hadley Wickham’s rvest scraping library, alongside many other tools he has contributed to the community of social scientists who use R to do data analysis.

Fri, May 1, 2015

Banking on it

A side-note to the enjoyable exchange with Dr Drang about sales trends in Apple products, which was picked up by John Gruber. The LOESS decompositions I posted looked like this: Quarterly sales decomposition for iPhones. One or two people remarked that these figures were shorter and wider than they were used to seeing. I did this on purpose—following the approach taken by William Cleveland and others, the charts are banked, meaning the aspect ratio is set to make it easier to pick out trends.

Tue, Apr 28, 2015

Apple Sales Trends

Update (April 30th): I redrew the decomposition plots this morning, and added a couple more. Another Twitter conversation, this time in the evening. Dr Drang put up a characteristically sharp post looking at sales trends in Apple Macs, iPhones, and iPads. He used moving averages to show long-term sales trends effectively, and he made a convincing argument that iPad sales are in decline. I ended up grabbing the sales data myself from barefigur.

Tue, Apr 28, 2015

Guessing the Population Composition of the US

Following a conversation on Twitter this morning, here’s a quick plot of some GSS data from 2000. Respondents were asked to estimate the percentage of people in the United States who fell into a range of (not necessarily exclusive) categories: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Jewish. Here we show the median guesses of White respondents and Black respondents, together with the actual percentage of people in each category, based on the 2000 Census.

Sociology and other distractions, since 2002. View all posts by date, or an index of posts by category.


I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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