Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This article, published on the National Geographic website, came across my radar today:

I hesitated to even post it because this, frankly, is just bad reporting. I'm ashamed at the National Geographic for allowing it on their website. Here's why it's not journalism:

The title of the article claims "Shark-Attack Deaths" are "Highest in 19 Years." What the article fails to mention, and what the "journalist" who wrote the article probably didn't even bother to research, is that 2011 shark attack deaths went from the average of 5-7 to 12.

So there's one way to say that. You could say it doubled. O my! The sharks are out to get us! But then, if you take a deep breathe and remember how to do actual statistics you might remember that when you compare the numbers 7 and 12 to the billions of times human beings go swimming every year this figure becomes literally (and I am really using the word literally) meaningless. There is no statistical significance. Period. It's like comparing the mass of two objects and being short a couple of protons.

So I'm not just hyperbolizing this time: this article is actually not saying anything. So if anyone asks you about the rise in shark attack you know...they're just not on the rise.

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