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Picturing the Uncertain World:
How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display
Howard Wainer

Paperback | 2011 | $23.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691152677
264 pp. | 7 x 9 | 11 color illus. 14 halftones. 81 line illus. 12 tables.
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In his entertaining and informative book Graphic Discovery, Howard Wainer unlocked the power of graphical display to make complex problems clear. Now he's back with Picturing the Uncertain World, a book that explores how graphs can serve as maps to guide us when the information we have is ambiguous or incomplete. Using a visually diverse sampling of graphical display, from heartrending autobiographical displays of genocide in the Kovno ghetto to the "Pie Chart of Mystery" in a New Yorker cartoon, Wainer illustrates the many ways graphs can be used--and misused--as we try to make sense of an uncertain world.

Picturing the Uncertain World takes readers on an extraordinary graphical adventure, revealing how the visual communication of data offers answers to vexing questions yet also highlights the measure of uncertainty in almost everything we do. Are cancer rates higher or lower in rural communities? How can you know how much money to sock away for retirement when you don't know when you'll die? And where exactly did nineteenth-century novelists get their ideas? These are some of the fascinating questions Wainer invites readers to consider. Along the way he traces the origins and development of graphical display, from William Playfair, who pioneered the use of graphs in the eighteenth century, to instances today where the public has been misled through poorly designed graphs.

We live in a world full of uncertainty, yet it is within our grasp to take its measure. Read Picturing the Uncertain World and learn how.


"In Picturing the Uncertain World, Howard Wainer approaches this problem through stories, and every one is a gem. This is territory that has long been dominated by the books of Edward Tufte . . . but Wainer's approach is refreshingly different. He has himself been involved in many policy debates and understands well that the same information can be interpreted in a variety of ways to support widely divergent positions. . . . Like two of Wainer's earlier books . . . this one makes for very fine reading and would be an excellent text for a general-education seminar."--Michael Goodchild, American Scientist

"As enjoyable to read as it is enlightening, [Picturing the Uncertain World] includes far more than its title indicates. Throughout, Wainer illuminates many of the big ideas of statistics in ways that help the reader understand and value the ideas. He provides contrasting graphical forms to demonstrate good data displays and incorporates analogies to help readers understand why certain logical arguments are flawed. . . . Anyone would enjoy reading this book."--Mathematics Teacher

"This is a very well-written book with subtle analyses and a refreshing approach to the field of statistics. For information designers the book offers ideal access to the science of uncertainty. Moreover . . . Wainer has succeeded in linking together two disciplines: statistical thinking and visual communication."--Wibke Weber, Information Design Journal

"Howard Wainer's book of the science of uncertainty (his label for the science of statistics), and how to recognize and manage it, is a combination of breezy, clever writing and unique visual examples with tutorials to clarify the technical aspects. It belongs on graphic artist's bookshelves."--Peter F. Eder, World Future Review

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