Mountains Out Of Molehills

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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  • Andy G

    Why isn’t Global Warming on this chart? That would be a hilarious piece of data that would clearly need to be at the back of the graph due to the absurd amount of media coverage. People love that s…

  • emma

    Beautiful work here! We’re doing a bit of information visualisation for a final MA project in Interactive Media, but using museum artifacts and data – sort of like an interactive way of changing the view of the data. Finding it really hard to represent qualitative data, as opposed to statistics – do you have any thoughts/ ideas or advice?

    • david

      Sounds cool. Can you mail me at informationisbeautiful [at] gmail with maybe a few details on the data etc. Thanks! D

  • Cor Blimey

    love the site. but you spelt “Millennium Bug” with only one N :(

  • neil

    think you left off terrorism

  • auntie em

    That is a very arresting visualisation. How did you determine the “intensity” of stories though?

  • auntie em

    My bad – my old lady eyes couldn’t read the lower case grey text on the Y axis. Damn I need new glasses…

  • Dan F

    That’s truly beautiful dude

  • Shane

    What about terrorism?

    “In the 29 OECD countries for which comparable data were available, the annual average death rate from road injury was approximately 390 times that from international terrorism.”

  • Katherine

    Pity it doesn’t go back further.

  • Twit Fan

    I have to admit, this is hilarious! Innovation at its’ best.
    Go and apply for an economics position within the W.H. immediately!
    Surely you can outdo them all!

  • jon

    Just stumbled across the site, absolutely fantastic.

    About this graphic, have you tried graphing so called ‘real’ news stories on it as well, for a sense of comparison? I’d be interesting to see peaks and dips in war related stories, and whether swine flu drowns them out or not.

  • neil

    Shane – Exactly

  • Laura

    Great graph – a few more typos; you’ve called it “Austism vaccinations”. It’s an MMR vaccination, and the apparently-unrelated-condition is autism.

  • Womyn2me

    lovely graph… need to add the upcoming 2012 Mayan Calender fun…

  • Alex den Haan

    “Funny” how the killer wasps have the appearance of shark fins, that surface each summer and that they are responsible for the highest number of fatalities.

  • BTMR

    At the British Traditional Molecatchers Register we deal with Molehills and the cause of them day in and day out and it is never surprising how small the cause of a big disturbance is…….. maybe if you have a real problem with real molehills we can help …


    Visual love: immense
    Content-wise: strange, I would have thought that the ‘Iraq and weapons of mass destruction’ hysteria would actually top this chart…?

  • Anonymous

    Great graph.That’s really funny !I want to buy a copy of your book, definitely !This is amazing visualisation.Thanks for sharing it here…

  • Daniel

    Where is 2012 and global warming? Oh wait… You guys probably are one of those really smart about every thing else but this shits legit types… meh.

  • dianne lien

    There is something about visualizations that surpasses all words. The cliche “a picture speaks a thousand words” fits. There is a visuwords, that defines words with visualizations. Fascinating!

  • cpmcmullen

    where is the dec 2004 Indian ocean earthquake/tsunami?

  • Alex

    Why is mobile phones and tumors zero? Haven’t there been reputable studies very recently that say there might be some link? To say zero so authoritatively is misleading.

  • Abe

    I am particularly interested in the annual periodicity of some of the events. For example, the killer wasps happens every year at a low intensity just after the middle of the year. The violent video game thing happens at the end of each year: it spikes and then drops, and then gradually increases again. And as a trend, it gradually decreases.

    The massive bio-pandemic trend is really scary. SARS looks like a nice gradually increase, then Bird Flu hits, and has a very pronounced peak and is about 130% the intensity of SARS at its peak, and finally Swine Flu is a huge pronounced spike, around 200% SARS… The scary thing here is that, although the pandemic threats seem to be getting farther apart, they are also getting exponentially more pronounced …. : / I’m not looking forward to the next one.

  • jim

    This assumes that a crisis averted was a crisis that never existed. Not a wise trend.

  • Christopher Luna

    I wish that you had a numerical scale on the Y-axis. You say that intensity is measures as a number of news stories, but it would be interesting to know the scale involved. How many thousands of stories are we talking about here?

  • Urvi

    This is really beautiful !!
    Kudos to the creator!

  • paul wright

    y2k cost $300,000,000,000 to fix . the reason nothing happened was that it was fixed!
    we were lucky with the last flu epidemic, just plain lucky. next time might be different, next time might be 1918 revisited. there is a difference between risk analysis and prophesy – it not happening does not mean the risk was not there.

  • Robin

    It strikes me how cyclical each ‘event’ or ‘subject’ is. Very good visualisation

  • Dan McLaughlin

    Four ideas:
    1. Your chart does a good job of showing cultural mountains but it assumes that all the issues are molehills. History may show that some of these “mountains” are at least substantial enough to be bigger than molehills.
    2. The Y2K issue is an example of a small mountain being made into a molehill. My assumption – There were enough real software bugs out there that if no action was taken there would be some significant problems. What happened – the mountain of over blown hype was adequate to create enough reaction to overcome the real problems. Why? – My theory – a.The public will do nothing about a problem unless it perceives a crisis. b. A group of computer people had real concern and shared the info. The press blew it out of proportion because it was a great story. The computer sale executives and and the customer IT managers jumped on the bandwagon because the Customer IT Managers wanted increased budgets and new toys. The Computer Sales Executives supported the panic because it would drive new sales.
    Because the “mountain” of panic created an adequate response to the real problem, the real problem never manifested itself. Therefore it looks like there was no validity to the real problem.
    3. Apply this “mountain out of a molehill phenomenon” to the “aids panic of the early 80″s. What impact did the panic have in bringing about action to deal with the problem? Did the action taken help mitigate the problem? Is the problem particularly in the 3rd world even bigger than we could imagine in the 80′s?
    4. The anti-al qadai panic was insufficient to cause us to take adequate action to avoid 9-11. Were they “poo-poo”ed because “they were making a mountain out of a molehill”?

  • Gab

    Please update this one! With Eartquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, Fukushima, Europe’s Economic crisis and the yet to come US default-debacle fear we may discover that the 2012 apocalypse is the sum of all fears spread by media. :)