Statistics’ Greatest Hits, Part I

How many times have you given a data-based presentation that made people burst into applause or made people weep? Have you ever given a talk that changed the world?

By my reckoning this has happened more than once to Hans Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. There are two TED talks by Swedish Professor Hans Rosling that stand out in my mind as outstanding examples of how statistical analysis can be:
a. Presented in a spectacularly effective way
b. Used for good in the world

In the first, referred to by many of my friends as the “Gapminder” TED talk, Dr. Rosling uses animated bubble charts to make (stunningly well) some points about worldwide trends in infant mortality, life expectancy, and distribution of wealth and productivity. The talk shows with shocking clarity how the world has been changing over time, in a form which can explode through ignorance and prejudice and create understanding. If you haven’t seen it, you should (see below).

You can use the Gapminder software to create your own animated Bubble Charts:
Gapminder Desktop download

You can also keep up with the organization that has grown up out of this effort on the Gapminder site: Gapminder.org

The second TED talk I refer to is the “Washing Machine” TED talk. This talk really showcases Rosling’s storytelling and showmanship, but is still at its heart a presentation based on data. I believe, if I could learn to present like this, there is no limit to what I could accomplish.

If you have some other nominees for Statistics Greatest Hits, please leave them in a comment.

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