Friday, November 2, 2012

The New Madrid Fault - Past, Present and Future

New Madrid, Territory of Missouri, March 22, 1816
Dear Sir,
In compliance with your request, I will now give you a history, as full in detail as the limits of the letter will permit, of the late awful visitation of Providence in this place and vicinity. 
On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do - the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed -- formed a scene truly horrible.
[Remaining text of this letter not shown] 
Your humble servant,
Eliza Bryan

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2014 Winter Olympics: Home Court Advantage - Russia

winter olympics home country advantage

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
 -- Winston Churchill, radio address in 1939

A couple of weeks ago, Graph of the Week published an article describing the significant improvement in medals won by the host country as opposed to how that country 'normally' performs when not hosting. We concluded that Great Britain (the host country) would end up with between 53 and 70 medals (roughly 1.5 - 2.0 times more than 'normal'). As it turns out, they won 65.

The Winter Olympics may not be until 2014, but why not make another prediction for the host country?  So, Russia, let's take a look at you and see what we can surmise.

Fact: Russia has never hosted the Winter Olympics - nor had the Soviet Union. That seems a bit odd seeing that the Russians usually do well in these games. There is probably another story lurking around there, but we'll let someone else field that one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics: Home Court Advantage - How Will the Brits Perform?

olympics host country home cooking
The Olympics are a big deal on a global scale. How big? Perhaps Paula Radcliffe (an English long distance runner) said it best:
"I have achieved a lot and I'm grateful for that - I'm just a bit greedy because I want to add the Olympics. It's once every four years - everyone wants it and very few people get it."
Take that sentiment and factor in competing in the Olympics in your home country. Talk about intense!

Friends and Family Plan

What inspires an athlete to perform better in front of a home crowd? How is it possible to jump a little higher, throw a little harder or run a little faster when he/she would otherwise not do so? The graph above shows this effect using the host countries' medal percentage from all modern-era Summer Olympics. There is a sharp increase in the total number of medals won (as a percentage of all medals awarded) by the host country as opposed to when they are not hosting. It should be noted that some of the results are heavily skewed due to boycotts (which further increased the home countries medal percentage significantly) and other factors described later in this article.

The 'home court advantage' has been studied previously and is a well-known phenomenon. In fact, it appears to be present across all sports as noted by Harvard researcher Jeremy P. Jamieson, PhD, in the Journal of Applied Psychology:

"A significant advantage for home teams was observed across all conditions (Mp = .604); and time era, season length, game type, and sport moderated the effect."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Health Care Costs - Part 3, "Why You Are Paying More"

yearly dollars awarded malpractice
Malpractice - A Booming Industry?

Perhaps authors Frank Sloan, Randall Bovbjerg and Penny Githens capture it best from their book Insuring Medical Malpractice:
"If aging Doctor Kildare were to return to medical practice today, having been in suspended animation since the early 1960s, he would find enormous changes in his malpractice insurance coverage. The first surprise is that the physician's malpractice coverage has become so important. No longer can he practice at his hospital without it. And much higher limits are needed to protect his practice and other assets against the financial risks of lawsuits."
This history of health insurance is a story of evolution, revealing ecological niches in the system allowing for the growth of malpractice lawyers and casualty insurers. In other words, doctors now have to protect themselves against financial ruin by purchasing malpractice insurance.

A quick glance at the above graph will quickly show that from 1990-2004 the dollar amounts awarded in malpractice cases rose significantly, with the largest gain coming in a five year period from 2000 - 2004. The publicity surrounding these astonishingly high payouts was intense, resulting in various forms of tort reform implementing caps on malpractice payouts in some states. Since then, the total amount awarded of medical malpractice claims have decreased.

Yet health care costs still continue to rise.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Health Care Costs - Part 2, "Unhealthy Things Not Related to the Problem"

Lighting Up

Way back in the day, folks believed that smoking was not only cool but also completely safe. As Marcel Danesi states in his book Of Cigarettes, High Heels, and Other Interesting Things, Second Edition: An Introduction to Semiotics (Semaphores and Signs):

"American society believed that smoking was not only highly fashionable, but that is also relieved tensions and even produced health benefits."
At least this explains why smoking was performed with such "unapologetic gusto" in those old movies. Alas, these poor souls knew not what awaited them later in life. Often there is a high price to be paid for fashion - sometimes in monetary terms, sometimes in emotional terms and unfortunately, sometimes in physical terms. Danesi goes on to point this out:
"However, epidemiologists started noticing around 1930 that lung cancer - rare before the twentieth century - had been increasing dramatically."
Due to the overwhelming evidence linking smoking and lung cancer, the U.S. imposed a ban on tobacco advertising on TV and Radio while also forcing manufacturers to put a warning label on the packages.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Health Care Costs - Part 1, "The Problem"

yearly health care costs graph

The Problem

In the United States, health care costs have been going up for a number of years, even when adjusted for inflation. Not unlike a runaway freight train, this rampant inflation cannot continue indefinitely without crashing.


What is 'health', anyway? According to Steven Jonas, MD, Raymond Goldsteen, DrPH, and Karen Goldsteen, PhD in their book An Introduction to the U.S. Health Care System, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined it in 1946:

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Interesting. When is the last time any of us felt like this was the goal of health care in the U.S.? They go on to say:

"Indeed, the WHO definition is 'honored in repetition, rarely in application.'"
So, even when 'health' (as defined here) is only applied in a narrow scope, the costs are still increasing quickly - and outpacing inflation (otherwise the lines above would be flat).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Body Weight in the United States - Part 3, "Contributing Factors"

calorie intake by food group chart


In Part 2 of this series, micro-nutrients were cited as a non-factor for weight gain. This is not the case with macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water). While fats, proteins and water are essential (without them you could not live), carbohydrates, on the other hand, don't appear to share this status. As Dr. Christian B. Allan and Dr. Wolfgang Lutz state in their book Life Without Bread: How a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life:

"To our knowledge, there has never been an essential carbohydrate discovered. Every carbohydrate your body needs can be made from either protein or fat."

Wow - powerful words, indeed. This is not to say that carbohydrates do not add healthy value to our bodies (such as fiber); rather is puts their contributions into perspective. This makes looking at the above chart very disturbing as it shows we've been wolfing down carbs more and more for quite some time - a nutrient that we simply do not need in large quantities, much less ever increasing quantities.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Body Weight in the United States - Part 2, "Non Factors"

yearly alcohol consumption graph united states

Sometimes the story isn't what is a trend, but rather what is not a trend. In this second installment about body weight in the U.S., listing what doesn't seem to be contributing factors will help narrow down what might actually be the problem(s).


"Stay busy, get plenty of exercise and don't drink too much. Then again, don't drink too little."
     - Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen

Sage advice from a person who lived to be 111 years old.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Body Weight in the United States - Part 1, "The Problem"

annual bmi chart

The Problem

In the United States, people are getting fatter and they are doing so at an alarming rate.

So What?

Being fat isn't just a social stigma - it's unhealthy in nearly every facet of life. Staying in this condition brings high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and arthritis to name but a few. Additionally, an obese person has a much harder time 'doing stuff' in terms of physical activity.

Want to know what it feels like? Strap on a fifty pound backpack and go for a walk. Better yet, try running with that extra weight and you will see just how much it impacts your ability to exercise let alone your ability to enjoy it. Do this daily for years and your joints will be set up perfectly for a lifetime of pain and stiffness.

Kudos to our military personnel (and any other job where this is required) who wear at least that much gear every day while performing their duties.

For the rest of us, an honest assessment is needed to reverse this trend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Global Fires, the Amazon and Humans

global annual co2 emissions map
Fires are natural - most of the time (click on image for larger view).

Natural Global Fires

Many plants and animals have evolved to depend on fires periodically occurring in certain parts of the world. This phenomenon has been occurring for millions of years, successfully replenishing and rejuvenating the areas in which it is allowed to happen. The ashes enrich the soil, animal populations are re-balanced and new life springs into existence. Additionally, these fires do not reduce the amount of land on which forests grow, thereby preserving the ecosystems contained within (with no loss of forest land).

Unnatural Global Fires

Using the word 'unnatural' is always risky, but here it is meant to convey control by humans - which in itself is 'natural', but introduces many variables not before seen in history. Unlike natural fires which are beneficial, unnatural forest fires often have the opposite effect - especially when used to clear land of trees to make way for agriculture or construction. Over time, the number of trees decreases while the number of humans increases. More humans require more agriculture which means more deforestation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Global Homicide Rates by Government Type

world homicide rates by democracy index
Surprising results

For purposes of this article, any mention of homicide rates refers to reported homicide rates.

Open vs Closed

In mostly open countries (full democracies), the homicide rates are rather low when compared to other types of governments - except for authoritarian regimes. Left open to speculation, the reasons can be many. Perhaps people in free societies are happier - happy people don't tend to murder other people, otherwise they wouldn't be happy. In a previous articles, it was shown that full democracies produce longer life spans and are world leaders in technological advancements. So, not only do people thrive when free, but they live longer and pursue creativity.

In mostly closed countries (authoritarian regimes), the homicides rates are also low (comparatively speaking). It's very well possible that not all homicides are reported in these countries - especially given recent events regarding the revolts in the Arabian countries (see Arab Spring). Many thousands have died during this time which would not be reported as a 'homicide.' When the government murders a person, it is viewed as eliminating a criminal - not a homicide (in all countries, that is). But if the rates are somewhat accurate, then why so low? Perhaps it is due to fear - people who are afraid for their own lives probably will not kill others if that means their own death.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The NFL: Pass or Lose

nfl rushing yards per year annually
The rushing game is slowly disappearing.
Heave That Sucker

When it doubt, chunk the pigskin. Whether you like it or not, NFL (National Football League) teams are relying upon passing more and more. Looking at the above chart, the average passing yards per game tends to go up by 25 yards every two decades - or 1.25 yards per year.

Can't Touch This

As the game has progressed, rule changes (especially since 1974) have allowed receivers nearly unrestricted movement down field. The result? A wide receiver can basically sprint thirty or forty yards, 'juking' defenders without being touched. The ball can then be rocketed to them in no time resulting in huge gains - given you have a great quarterback.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Finding Earth II

rate of finding exoplanets yearly by distance
By 2030, we will have found approximately 10,000 exoplanets.

"If it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space."
-- from the movie Contact (1997) based on the book Contact by Carl Sagan.

By the year 2030, it's possible that over ten thousand exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) will have been discovered if the above trend continues. That assumes a couple of things:
  1. The rate at which they are being discovered continues to grow in an exponential manner.
  2. There aren't other limiting factors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Live Longer - Choose Your Country Wisely (if you can)

life expectancy by government type
Full democracy countries are the ones in which to live.
This week's story could start and end with the above graph with almost no further explanation.

But that wouldn't do it justice.

So, like so many of the past articles on "Graph of the Week", a bit of analysis will be provided based on collected data and research. Starting with what is shown above, it is clear that people tend to live longer under full democracies. The range of life spans under this type of government nearly always are above 80. Compare that with other forms of government where only a select few nations have longevity near that age.

And as might be expected, authoritarian regimes have the most countries with comparatively short life expectancies.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Small Countries Stablize by Exporting High-Tech

country high tech export chart
Smaller countries lead the way.
When you think of 'high-tech', which countries come to mind?

What is 'High-Tech'?

Before continuing, what is meant by the term 'high-tech'? As defined by the World Data Bank, high-technology exports are products with high R&D (Research and Development) intensity, such as aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals, scientific instruments and electrical machinery. That doesn't necessarily mean 'end products' - the gadgets, drugs, meters, etc. that end up in your hands for use; rather, it often means the parts or chemicals that go into those devices which are often assembled elsewhere.

It's Not Who You Might Think

We tend to associate that term with countries such as Japan, the United States, Great Britain, the Nordic Countries, France, India, Taiwan and China to name a few. It's reasonable to make that assumption because those countries do indeed export high-tech products in large amounts. However, that's not the only thing they export since most are large enough to diversify. Therefore, when we look at their high-tech exports as a percentage of their total exports, it mostly rises no higher than 30%.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flying: Boredom and Terror

airplane accidents, yearly trend of aviation accidents
Data represents all planes (not just commercial planes) for the United States
"There are only two emotions on a plane: boredom and terror."
-- Orson Welles, interview to celebrate his 70th birthday, The Times of London, 6 May 1985.

For some people, flying represents their worst fears. Not only are you helpless if something goes awry, but you will most likely have some time to ponder it before the end arrives.


Takeoff can be the worst as you feel the chassis shudder and moan with the strain. This is the time when many accidents occur, due to the forces involved getting a massively heavy object off the ground. That being said, there aren't enough o's in smooth to describe the sensation once you arrive at altitude. Unless, of course, you hit turbulence...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Enjoy Low Income Tax Rates

Tax rates were higher in the past...

Joe derisively snorted at the pay stub in his hand. Crumpling it into a ball, he wound up like a baseball pitcher and fast-balled the wad of paper across the room. It bounced unsatisfying off the wall and onto the floor, coming to a rest near his feet.

"Guess I'm not cut out for the big leagues," he muttered to himself. Flopping down on the couch, he snatched the remote and jabbed it towards the high-def TV, hoping to take his mind off it all. With his head in one hand he began to channel surf with the other, staring blankly at the flickering screen.

The cell phone on the coffee table suddenly buzzed while playing "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller. Joe jerked out of his trance, leaning over to catch the spinning device. "Hi Dad," he dejectedly said, "what's up?"

"You interested in watching the NCAA tournament at Mac's? They've got great specials during the games," his dad asked.

"I can't afford it, Pops. All of my money goes to taxes," Joe answered.

As outrageous laughter burst forth from the other end of the phone, Joe pulled it away from his ear and scowled at it. Snapping it back, he said annoyingly "Dad, this is serious. I'm getting taxed to death!"

More laughter.

His dad laughed so hard that he went into a coughing fit. After hacking and spitting, he finally calmed down telling Joe "you have no idea what you are talking about."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

U.S. Soldiers Died from What?

military deaths disease infection
Prior to WWII, the majority of soldiers died from disease and infection.

The Invisible Enemy Often Killed You Before Your Political Enemy

Imagine the scene: thousands of military men laying on cots, makeshift beds, or the floor - any place that was available was filled with a wounded soldier. Understand that these aren't the scratches you see in everyday life; rather, these are war wounds from heavy lead balls that shatter the bones of an arm or a leg. Take one into the gut or head and death was all but certain. This knowledge was not lost on the men of the Civil War as their screams echoed throughout the makeshift hospitals like the wails of the damned. It's not from lack of chloroform; no, it's from the horror of seeing a surgeon literally saw off a man's arm, tossing the lifeless appendage into a grotesque pile of discarded flesh on the floor. Or perhaps you scream in terror when the surgeon, facing you with a bloody saw as bits of human flesh hang off of it, quietly informs you that your leg is next to join the rotting mass.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nordic Countries Dominate the World in Internet Penetration

Something about that cold weather... 

The number of internet users in the Nordic countries has greatly outpaced the world by comparison. Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland - all in the elite echelon. These countries share a common ancestry - the 'Vikings' or the Norse peoples - we've all read about in history classes and seen dramatized in the movies. Honor and battle were highly emphasized; fallen warriors were thought to be sent to Valhalla shared with the Norse gods such as Odin and Thor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Madness! Wanna Win?

Winning percentage of all NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Champions.

Down by one, the ball spins in his hand as he dribbles up the floor. With tennis shoes squeaking, he feints left, then right. Glancing up at the clock, he sees only five seconds left. Out of the corner of his eye, he spies a teammate break towards the basket. With a knowing glance he lobs the ball upward. The crowd, already standing, goes silent and everybody's eyes follow "the dime."  His teammate crouches like a panther and lurches upward. The ball floats into his hands while he twists his upper body, slamming it through the metal hoop with authority. Hanging onto the rim, his own roar is drowned out by the crowd. The buzzer blares and the game is over. They win!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The New York Yankees Payroll vs Everyone Else (Major League Baseball)

Major League Baseball payrolls for all teams since 1985. The New York Yankees payroll is highlighted with results defined by the shape of the point.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

We Keep Our Vehicles Longer

Average age of passenger cars and light trucks in the United States since 1995. The gray area represents the possible variance of the trend line with 95% confidence.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ESPN Prediction Performance for the NFL

ESPN 'experts' predict the National Football League wins/losses each week.  The above chart shows the percentage of their correct guesses and an overall trend, week by week.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

MLB Year by Year Total Annual Payroll

Year by year total annual payroll for Major League Baseball.


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