A round-up of our favourite charts of 2020
EVERY NOVEMBER, The Economist's data team pores through its website analytics to find the most popular Graphic Detail articles and daily charts of the year. These are then traditionally presented to readers in December in the form of an interactive advent calendar. Although some judgment is used as to what makes the cut (no one wants to read about soaring suicide rates on Christmas Eve, for example), the final selection is generally representative of what our readers found most interesting.
As with so many things in 2020, though, coronavirus has ruined our plans. Without doubt the data team has produced some outstanding covid-19-related data journalism, from a prescient piece on February 3rd about how airlines fare during pandemics, through covid-adjacent takes on booms in baby-making and bread-baking, to our interactive charts and maps tracking the spread of the virus and excess mortality around the world. But we felt that readers might want a break from relentless covid coverage at this time of the year. So we have selected a handful of our favourite non-covid articles that you may have missed. We’ll reveal a new one every day this week.
This Christmas Day, many children (and not a few adults) will be hoping to find a new games console under the tree. For gaming giants like Sony and Microsoft, though, Christmas came early this year. When lockdowns paused normal life, many reached for the games controller and industry revenues soared. But gaming bosses are not the only ones to benefit from all this extra screen-time. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that people who play video games for longer reported feeling better, on average, than those who barely played at all. Moreover, the feeling of social connection from playing with others online, crucial when friends cannot meet in person, also improved their mood. This might be some consolation to parents and partners who now find themselves competing with a gaming device.
Speaking of presents, we have again collated all of the year's Graphic detail articles into one downloadable PDF as a gift to our readers.
While the world's attention has been focused on the pandemic, another global crisis, albeit a slower moving one, continues. Earlier this year we noted that the northern-hemisphere winter that ended on March 20th was the second-warmest since records began, and the warmest ever on land. Some may welcome the shorter winters that climate change brings, especially if they lead to shorter flu seasons, but the downsides are considerable. In the summer of 2019 there were record-breaking emissions of carbon dioxide from fires in the Arctic circle. In June we reported that some had smouldered beneath the snow over the mild winter and were emerging as “zombie fires”. By September, carbon emissions from the millions of acres incinerated by wildfires in the Arctic had already far exceeded 2019’s total.
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Professionally at least, 2020 hasn’t been a bad year for Lewis Hamilton. In October the British driver surpassed Michael Schumacher’s long-standing record of 91 career Formula 1 (F1) victories; in November he equalled the German’s record of seven F1 titles; and in December he was named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for the second time, joining such luminaries as Nigel Mansell. But can he lay claim to the title of the best driver ever?
In October we built a statistical model to find out and discovered that Mr Hamilton did not even make it into the top five. Moreover, our model suggested that the real drivers of success in F1 sit not behind the wheel but in the garages and laboratories where ever-faster cars are developed. And we found a similar pattern of tech dominance in the world of golf. Bryson DeChambeau, a physics graduate nicknamed the “Mad Scientist”, combines oddly designed clubs with a voracious appetite for data and a muscular striking speed to send his ball up to 15 yards closer to the pin than his rivals do. In his case at least, the driver makes a difference.
In October we asked whether it is better to be a poor pupil in a rich country than the reverse. Gathering income data is easy but comparing test scores around the world is harder than it sounds. Although pupils in the rich world mostly take one of a handful of big international exams, many developing countries rely on regional tests.
A new working paper attempts to get around this lack of apples-to-apples comparison. Its authors set an exam for around 2,000 Indian pupils that included both questions from the leading international tests and ones taken from smaller exams. Using answers from the same pupils on the same day to questions from different tests, they built a statistical model they called a “Rosetta Stone” that allows them to translate scores from a range of regional exams into an equivalent mark on other common international tests.
As the chart shows, students in rich countries from less well-off families do indeed perform better than richer children in poor countries, but income levels within countries can make a big difference too. And as we wrote this week, school closures caused by the pandemic will only widen this gap.
In February, we analysed song data from Spotify for 30 countries around the globe. Using the streaming service’s “valence” algorithm—a formula that classifies how happy a song sounds on a scale from 0 to 100—we were able to identify the peaks and troughs of each nation’s musical mood. Most countries experience a dip in listening to happy-sounding songs in February and a sustained surge in July. But there were surprising regional differences. Lively Latin music seems to lift the mood of many South American countries all year round while Scandinavians have gloomier listening habits than the global average. A daily chart from the archives suggests that they make up for it at Christmas: one in every six songs streamed in Sweden and Norway in December 2016 was a festive tune; in Brazil, a country with a similar proportion of Christians, it was just one in 150.
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/12/24/a-round-up-of-our-favourite-charts-of-2020
Selected by fonecable.com
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