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How to Lie with Statistics, a Book Review

Mark Twain is reputed to have said: "There are lies, damned lies and statistics.", which is a lie in and of itself, and is actually attributed to Disraeli in the front cover of the book How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff (Norton), is essential to any programmer survival kit, because misleading color graphics are everywhere. The author teaches you how to talk back to a statistic. This brief, humorous, and entertaining book "is a sort of primer in the ways to use statistics to deceive....the crooks already know these tricks. Honest men must learn them in self-defense." The author shows how to take a graph and make it say anything you want.

But suppose you wish to win an argument, shock a reader, move him into action, sell him something. For that, this chart lacks schmaltz. Chop off the bottom. Now that's more like it ....The figures are the same and so is the curve ....nothing has been falsified - except the impression that it gives ... a line that has climbed halfway up the chart, all because most of the chart isn't there any more ....Why stop with truncating? Simply change the proportion between the ordinate and the abscissa ....That is impressive isn't it.

[changing a graph's message]

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