The Data Show

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Data. We’re awash in it, we make it, we save it, computers crunch it at an unprecedented rate. Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad talks with Brooke about how data inform us and can lead us astray.

The Personal Data Revolution

It’s possible for the average person to collect and analyze unprecedented amounts of data about themselves.  What was once the province of extreme athletes and dieters has been democratized and the resulting movement is called ‘The Quantified Self.’  Brooke speaks with Gary Wolf who coined the term, a number of self-quantifiers and MIT professor Deb Roy about what all this personal data really tells us about ourselves.  

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Data Journalism

The immense amounts of data collected by local, state and federal government agencies can be an incredibly valuable trove for enterprising journalists.  It can also be a pointless slog. NPR's StateImpact project database reporting coordinator Matt Stiles and computational journalism professor at Duke Sarah Cohen explain how they find good stories in a sea of government data.  

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Two Cautionary Data Tales

Data doesn’t always expose and explain, it can also lead us astray. OTM producer Jamie York looks at two time in the recent past when an overreliance on data has had disastrous consequences. Joe Flood, author of The Fires and Dennis Smith, author and veteran firefighter tell the story of the RAND Corporation and the fires in the Bronx in the 1970’s.  And Scott Patterson, author of The Quants and Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, explain how math and science whiz kids nearly destroyed Wall Street.

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The 'Decline Effect' and Scientific Truth

Surprising and exciting scientific findings capture our attention and captivate the press.  But what if, at some point after a finding has been soundly established, it starts to disappear?  In a special collaboration with Radiolab we look at the 'decline effect' when more data tells us less, not more, about scientific truth.

Correction: An earlier version of this short incorrectly stated that Jonathan Schooler saw the effect size of his study fall by 30% on two different occasions. In fact, he saw it fall by that amount the first time he repeated the study and saw a general downward trend thereafter. The audio has been adjusted to reflect this fact.


Correction: An earlier version of this short incorrectly attributed a statement to Jonathan Schooler’s advisor. The statement was actually made by his colleague. The audio has been adjusted to reflect this fact.

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