Math in the Media

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in the Popular Press

"Population Growth, Technology and Tricky Graphs," by Peter Schulze andJack Mealy. American Scientist, May-June, 2001, pages 209-211.

If a reader is not careful, a log-log plot can be deceiving. The authorsanalyze a much-cited log-log graph of Edward S. Deevey, Jr. that comparespopulation to time. The shape of the graph appears to suggest bursts inpopulation growth occurring at times when there was a major revolutionin human progress (for example, The Industrial Revolution). However, theauthors caution against such a conclusion and use a graph of stock pricesto substantiate their claim that log-log graphs can obscure changes andgive an impression of stabilization when no such stabilizing is actuallyoccurring.

--- Mike Breen