A clever, interactive chart from NPR's Planet Money tracks the relative popularity of different American Hallowe'en costumes over the past five years.
Zombies Are Hot, But Clowns Are Not [Planet Money/NPR]
Pop Chart Lab's Whiskey Glasses Set is comprised of four tumblers, each of which traces the lineage of different branches of the whiskey tree (rye is a notable omission). They're very beautiful, and cost $45 for the set. They're adapted from the Whiskey Taxonomy poster, which can also be had in laser-engraved form.
Prooffreader graphed the distribution of letters towards the beginning, middle and end of English words, using a variety of corpora, finding both some obvious truths and some surprising ones. As soon as I saw this, I began to think of the ways that you could use it to design word games -- everything from improved Boggle dice to automated Hangman strategies to altogether new games. Read the rest
James Gill writes, "Cognitive Bias Parade is a site that takes a daily look at deviations in judgement and reconstructed realities. It is an illustrated review of the many ways the brain has evolved to lie to itself. It is not simply meant to scold. The spirit of the project was captured once in a quote by the magician Jerry Andrus: 'I can fool you because you're a human. You have a wonderful human mind that works no different from my human mind. Usually when we're fooled, the mind hasn't made a mistake. It's come to the wrong conclusion for the right reason.'
"I've given a Creative Commons Share-Alike status to my work on the site. I ask only that a link-back be given for my website as credit."
(Above: Observation selection bias... The effect of suddenly noticing things that were not noticed previously – and as a result wrongly assuming that the frequency has increased.) Read the rest
The Spurious Correlations engine helps you discover bizarre and delightful spurious correlations, and collects some of the most remarkable ones. For example, Per capita consumption of sour cream (US) correlates with Motorcycle riders killed in noncollision transport accident at the astounding rate of 0.916391. Meanwhile, but exploring the engine, I've discovered a surprising correlation between the Age of Miss America and Murders by steam, hot vapours and hot objects (a whopping 0.870127!).
Rachel Willmer, who runs the excellent ebook price-comparison site Luzme, summarizes the price-preference data she's captured from her customers. By measuring the point at which readers are willing to buy ebooks (whose prices are variable) and the volumes generated at each price-point, her findings suggest the optimal price for ebooks in different territories. This is important work: because ebooks have almost no marginal cost (that is, all their costs are fixed through production, so each copy sold adds almost nothing to the publisher's cost), there's lots more flexibility pricing strategies. If you make more by pricing your book at $0.01 than you do at $10, the right thing to do is price it at a penny and rake it in -- a rational business wants to maximize its profits, not the amount that each customer spends (I wrote about this at length in 2010).
Ars Technica's Casey Johnson has designed a handy checklist for people hoping to develop a "woman's" tech product without being sexist jerks. The first step is ensuring that there is, indeed, some need that is unique to women (an important step -- women don't need their own pens, Bic). And obviously, you can't just make a pink version or a version that has fewer features and declare it to be chick-ready. Johnson then counsels against avoiding merely making things more "design-y" and declaring it to be woman-friendly (guys like things that look good too). Read the rest
This 2012 video from Politizane does an excellent job of illustrating the massive, well-documented gap between the wealth-distribution that Americans believe they have, the distribution they would favor (regardless of political affiliation), and what America actually has: a system that rewards CEOs at 380 times the rate of their average employees.
The missing elements in the diagram on the Wikipedia page for List of cetaceans is missing some line-art of various whales and such. Where the art is missing, the box simply bears the legend "cetacean needed." (ObRef XKCD)
The Trekkie Has the Phone Box has analyzed the way women are presented in the second of the Star Trek reboot movies; and compared it to Gene Rodenberry's original show, which went to great lengths to establish gender parity and racial diversity in its depicted future. The analysis goes into some convincing detail and makes me think that the reboot is a very retrograde move in the history of the Trek franchise and how it deals with women.
These know-your-chemical-weapon posters were produced by the Medical Training Replacement Center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas as training materials for soldiers being sent to fight in WWII. They're a weird mix of cheerfulness and atrocity:
Four WWII Posters That Taught Soldiers to Identify Chemical Weapons by Smell (via Kadrey)
Of the four chemicals mentioned here—phosgene, lewisite, mustard gas, and chlorpicrin—three were used in World War I. (Lewisite was produced beginning in 1918, but the war ended before it could be used.) Phosgene, which irritates the lungs and mucus membranes and causes a person to choke to death, caused the largest number of deaths among people killed by chemical weapons in the First World War. (Elsewhere on Slate: A firsthand account of what it felt like to be hit by mustard gas.)
The smells that these posters warn soldiers-in-training to be wary of are the everyday scents of home: flypaper, musty hay, green corn, geraniums, garlic. The choice of analogies seems particularly appropriate for soldiers raised on farms—a population that would become increasingly small in every war to follow.
Money wins Elections is an excellent, scrolling infographic that illustrates how money corrupts the American legislative process, showing that time and again, Congress has voted the way that the big money told it to, against the prevailing popular opinion. It's all in support of the American Anti-corruption Act, and it was created by Tony Chu for part of his MFA thesis project.