Monday, April 03, 2006

Presentation of Data: Examples

Following my post on Ed Tufte and the presentation of data I remembered these graphics from Toro Magazine (a wannabe Vice-type mag that comes with the Globe and Mail).

I can't remember ever seeing a pie-chart in a physics talk, but pie-charts are a staple in low-brow business pitches and pseudo-technical presentations, along with non-ironic use of Comic Sans and mortifying clip-art.

So for my talk last week, I really regret not working in a gratuitous pie-chart displaying some completely inane data; the only purpose it's really suitable for -- but given the (lame-o) state of my research I wasn't feeling too cocky either.

...and below is one of my fave types of graphics, a phase-space plot. These plots are really illustrative (seriously), and I think science people should use them more often.

Someday I will have to get off my ass and figure out how to get Matlab to plot words in a 2-D plot.

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Blogger Barry said...

You would have to be a bigshot to put a pie chart into a physics talk. If you or me showed up at a conference with a pie chart, we'd get laughed out of the room.

Dynamical data (lot of that in physics) can't really be shown on a pie or bar chart, or any of those types of charts that biz types like to use.

3:02 AM  
Blogger Amit said...

first off, what do you even mean by "dynamical data". there are all sorts of data in physics, not just the y=f(x) type.

i actually think there are non-laughable uses for a pie chart, it shows how something gets partitioned. but it wouldn't occur to physics peeps to use a pie-chart since it's not in the canon of physics plots, they'd just make a table or something.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

"dynamical data" = tracking how something evolves in time. If you've got four time points (usually not the case), then sure, a bar graph can be striking and effective. But it won't work with a pie chart. Both types are mainly useful for comparing the magnitude of a small number of quantities (i.e. gross sales in 2002 vs 2005), which also doesn't happen too ofen in physics.

There are definitely non-laughable physics uses for a pie chart, I'm just saying that you and me couldn't easily get away with it. If we were preparing a talk we'd go with the safe choice and write up a table to display that very same info.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

a pie chart of t tbar branching ratios gets shown in like 90% of all top quark physics talks:

1:31 AM  
Anonymous the green bicycle said...

amit, I'll race you to who can show a pie chart in an atmosp talk first.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Amit said...

b: that's called a time series or what i meant by y=f(x).

i: i know pie charts are used for chemical and particle reactions where there's many products. i could also use them to show partition of energy.

l: do it at cmos. if anyone's not afraid to do something like that it's you. i gave a talk titled 'Click to add title', ie. i didn't change the powerpoint default title.

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