Lying With Data Visualization – Fear is Your Only God on the Radio

Are we living in safe times? We usually would like to believe so and we love to look at numbers to make us feel safer. Now statistics seldom lie. They’re just complicated. Lying with data vizalization however, is a common practice whenever you would like to tell you audience that certain things are going great, or not going so great – depending on your agenda. Well, let’s maybe call it „clipping the truth a little“.

The following infograpics presented by Statista carries the headline „The World is Demobilising (so far)“. Despite the fact that the data covering the number of U.S. vs. Russian nuclear warheads are disputable – can we believe what we are supposed to?

Lying With Data Visualization? As a rule: Don’t waste your time on „trends“ with just two years to look at

For starters the graphics only shows a very narrow timeline – comparing figures of 2014 vs. 2016 – making it rather hard to draw a conclusion regarding a trend. So the only conclusion you could come to is that in 2016 there existed minus 906 nuclear warheads worldwide compared to 2014.

But alas! There are still 15,395 of the little buggers around – according to Statista’s source SPRI – and they would probably do an excellent job, nuking us „from orbit“ several times and over again. So. Is this really „disarmament“?

Article: Lying With Data Visualization - Infografik: Die Welt rüstet (noch) ab | Statista

Let’s take a look at a visualization over time – starting back in history when the first use of a nuclear weapon took place in 1945

This visualization shows the number of nuclear warheads in the inventory of all the nuclear powers and countrie that are not confirmed nuclear powers from 1945 to 2014, putting the total amount of nukes in 2014 at around 10,145.

The data source for this infographics is located at the website of the Federation of American Science, which you will find here:

First of all, looking at a map of 2014, you will find that the U.S. still ranked as the number 1 nuclear power in the world in this particular year – as it has done all the previous years. Russia comes in second. Further down the page you will see that the peak of the so called nuclear arms race was actually in 1986, due to massive military developments kicked off by Russia in 1978 – most probably to counter the United States‘ strong lead.

Ever since 1986 nuclear weapons‘ stocks seem to have gone down drastically worldwide (which is a good thing) – and this is surely true for the nuclear superpowers. Still the downwards trend has slowed down considerably since around 2009. Changes since 2009 have not been tremendous and the reduction of nuclear arms almost looks like it is „on hold“ – compared to previous developments.

But it gets even more interesting, when you look at the small countries that tend to disappear on the bottom line of the charts. What have they been upt to?

Go to the interactive Tableau Public Visualization Dashboard and find out what’s up with China, the UK, Pakistan, Israel, France and India!

Click on the image to see the interactive grapics and then select a country by clicking on the red dots in the map. Have fun!

nuclear warheads over time

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Note: „Obtaining an accurate count of the nuclear warheads possessed by each country today is difficult, since each country controls the publicly available information relating to its nuclear capabilities for security reasons.“ The data used for the Tableau Visualisation is taken from the Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Notebook. It represents „a best-estimate of the capabilities of each country“. ( / Topic: Lying With Data Visualization