The global ‘wonderbra’ effect…

One of the things that demonstrates how far behind Northern Ireland is in terms of what’s happening in the wider world. Even if you don’t like economics, I recommend heartily that you take some time out to watch this presentation from Hans Rosling, who notes how widespread preconceptions of how the world is split into two discrete world’s of rich and poor are profoundly misleading. The data, he asserts, is way more interesting than old narratives. Hat tip to Nestor!!It’s full of little gems like, “Mao brought health to China, then he died and Deng Xiaoping brought money to China”. David McWilliam‘s Wonderbra effect comes to mind.


  • Nestor Makhno

    I’d like to see this visualisation applied to some Northern Ireland datasets from the past thirty years. Would make interesting viewing no doubt…

  • Garibaldy

    Fascinating but at the same time a lot of common sense that isn’t very surprising.

    And no clearer illustration of the importance of class politics if you ask me.

  • Mick Fealty

    Surprised his high level students though, and the Nobel judges who scored as well as his notional chimps!!

  • Garibaldy


    Fair point. Just goes to show that academic qualifications are overrated.

  • micktvd

    Fascinating. The gapminder website is a brilliant resource. Statistics you can see in multiple configurations, across time and in bold colour. Rivals Google Earth for sheer genius.

  • Greenflag

    Thanks for that Mick-Excellent presentation by Hans Rosling :

    Now applying that technology to NI’s past and future economy in comparison to ROI would make interesting viewing .

    Let’s face it a ‘picture’ is worth a thousand words for most and probably double that for a thousand ‘numbers .

  • Check your wallets, Sluggiepoos.

    Everybody recognizes the Gaussian Distribution or bell-shaped curve to you of the math-phobic. Our concept of this distribution usually rest upon there being equal areas on either side of the curve. Half of you didn’t break a sweat when grades came out, the other half were grounded. This is embedded in you psyche.

    The axes of the Gaussian Distribution are Cartesian, though, not logarithmic as Rosling used in his presentation. That income curve is bogus and the data points representing the richer countries are really to hell and gone far off to the right.

    He came right out and said it, so I cannot accuse him of actual misrepresentation. He did not go into the ramifications, though.

    Furthermore, in the later distributions, he used log-log charts to show “linearity”. This linearity is a crutch by which, in the bad old days before computers, we used to derive the value of the exponent which of a power curve when mapped into Cartesian space.

    That which appears linear when mapped into log-log space is really a steeply rising (or falling, depending on the slope of the line faired through the data) curve when presented in Cartesian space.

  • Ghost of PDN Past

    Yeah! What he said!

  • Greenflag

    Smilin Jim,

    And your conclusion is the rich are getting richer absolutley and relative to the poor, and the poor are getting richer but ?

    ‘He did not go into the ramifications, though. ‘

    Which are what ? IYO

  • “Which are what ? IYO”

    Watch the video. Expand the scales.

    What was a close approximation to a slightly skewed normal distribution is now a cheap knockoff of A Persistence of Memory. The rich get richer and the poor get fucked.

    Where the linearity of points is shown to “prove” a concept, it really doesn’t when the relationship is log-log or semilog since the real data when mapped into Cartesian space is exponential.

    Then ask yourself what his motive is for cooking the data. I donno meself, I never saw the guy before and care feckin’ less what he does.

    Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

  • Nestor Makhno

    I agree that the log scale does bunch all the countries together artificially and greatly de-emphasises disparities (but for practical purposes it also gets all the data points onto the video screen!)

    But was not the point of the presentation to show that the ‘developing’ world is not one single undifferentiated mass and that each require different types of development support? That many such countries – mostly in south east Asia – are advancing rapidly but that in sub-Saharan Africa things were still very bleak? (But even in Africa there were wide differences.)

    Ok, not earth-shattering stuff – but he did point out that many of his students and other professors had the same ‘third world’ mind set.